With precision agriculture now firmly entrenched on the farm, it is inevitable that anything interfering with the necessary GPS signals won’t be accepted with a smile. At the same time, growers know that rural America would massively benefit from reliable broadband coverage.

You might think those two things — GPS and broadband — would go hand-in-hand rather than be competing interests.

However, as it currently stands in mid-September, LightSquared — a massive communications company that says it will bring much-needed broadband coverage to rural America — has upset industries, commodity groups, municipalities and government agencies that lean heavily on GPS receivers.

The reason: LightSquared’s system uses some of the same frequencies and that causes interference with GPS signals.

In January, the Federal Communications Commission approved LightSquared’s multi-billion dollar proposal to build its network. Then the GPS interference issues surfaced and the FCC and other government entities put the brakes on LightSquared plans and requested more testing.

So far, despite promises of an easy solution, the needed fixes — which government officials say, among other things, are necessary to maintain quick GPS-reliant natural disaster warnings and responses — haven’t emerged.

“LightSquared is a high-speed broadband wireless service provider looking to branch out and begin putting up around 40,000 towers around the country” says R.J. Karney, American Farm Bureau Federation appropriations specialist.

“It’ll be a great resource for rural America in the sense of providing broadband access and better wireless service — it’ll be a great benefit in that capacity.”

However, from an agricultural standpoint, “there is a real concern with that plan. That’s due to the current interference the LightSquared system has on GPS-related equipment since they both use the same frequency. That’s where the main issue comes in — when LightSquared began to build their towers, the GPS industry found interference.”

One of AFBF’s main priorities “is to get broadband deployment to rural America. That will be beneficial for distance learning and education, public safety, tele-medicine, all kinds of assistance for commerce.”

But, “precision agriculture is immensely important to farmers and ranchers. Specifically, precision agriculture helps them to run efficient, economically and environmentally-conscious operations.”