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FCC Sold Critical U.S. Coast Guard Radio Frequency to MariTel

MariTel's president, Dan Smith, said that the company bought the frequency before 9/11 and prior to the FCC realizing that it was essential to the USCG. Mr. Smith also said that he just can?t simply give it back, because his company has thousands of investors that put more than $85 million into his company. The USCG says it objected to the frequency sale because two of the channels are critical in monitoring ship movements and the cargo of thousands of ships that enter the nation?s ports each year. The FCC?s position is that it went ahead with the sale because it was assured that MariTel and the USCG would work out an arrangement. Protecting 361 seaports and 95,000 miles of coastlines from terrorism is required of the U.S. Coast Guard as mandated by the Maritime Transportation Act of 2002, which goes into effect on July 1, 2004. The task of monitoring 20,000 ocean going vessels that transport 16 million twenty-foot equivalent containers each year into U.S. ports is complex and essential to counteract terrorism. Foreign vessels are required by international regulations to carry transponders which will enable the USCG to locate their position. Maritime officials say that the required transponders are an excellent navigational and safety tool as well. The radio frequency owned by MariTel is an essential network for vessel identification and tracking. The FCC has scheduled a hearing on the matter, and possible resolutions may include voiding the MariTel purchase or negotiating a settlement.