Inhofe blocks nomination of FCC commissioner over Ligado order

Inhofe said he would block O’Rielly until the nominee “publicly commits to vote to overturn the current Ligado order.”

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has placed a hold on the nomination of Michael O’Rielly to another term on the Federal Communications Commission, the committee announced July 28.

Inhofe said he would block O’Rielly until the nominee “publicly commits to vote to overturn the current Ligado order.”

The FCC on April 20 granted Ligado a modification to its L-band spectrum license to allow the company to build a terrestrial 5G wireless network despite strong opposition from the Pentagon and other government agencies.

Inhofe accused the FCC of issuing the Ligado order without having properly assessed the impact of Ligado’s wireless network on the Global Positioning System that also operates in the L-band spectrum. The FCC has pushed back and insisted the license modification to Ligado comes with strict conditions to ensure there’s no impact on GPS services.

O’Rielly’s nomination for a new five-year term on the FCC was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee and on July 22 moved to the full Senate for a vote. O’Rielly, a Republican, was first nominated for a seat on the FCC by President Barack Obama. In January 2015 he won a second term.

Inhofe said he would keep a hold on the nomination until O’Rielly declares he will support reversing the Ligado order. “I understand that O’Rielly has stated that he would give due consideration to a stay based on new data or evidence,” Inhofe said in a statement.

“Over the past few months, I have sent letters, held hearings and called countless officials to highlight what we all know to be true: the FCC’s Ligado order is flawed and will lead to significant harm to our military and the thousands of individuals and businesses that rely on GPS,” Inhofe said.

An FCC insider told SpaceNews that although a U.S. senator can put a hold on any nomination for any reason it is highly unusual for a senator to place such as explicit condition on the nomination of an FCC Commissioner, requiring them to vote a certain way to get their vote.