... how about the prospect that the GPS system will be the next part of America's neglected infrastructure to be in trouble, with ripple effects on modern commercial life?
And so it is with heavy heart that we learn about a new Government Accountability Office study (here in PDF), via Michael Cooney's story in NetworkWorld, saying that the U.S. Air Force, which runs the GPS satellites, has not managed to get new "IIF"-model satellites ready in time to replace the ones that are wearing out.
For years, other countries have said they needed their own alternative to the GPS system, precisely because it was run by the U.S. military and, in times of crisis, could be used as a strategic tool. Simplest version of the fear: that in an emergency the US could block or encode signals so that only its own receivers could interpret them, meaning the American military would know where it was going and no one else would. You can get the idea from the illustration below, included in the GAO report, showing sample "aviation" and "ground navigation" uses for GPS.
But the nightmare scenario no one thought to worry about was that the US-run system would start to crumble and wear out. Arrrgghh!
* IMPROVEMENT!!!: Let me quickly shift from Arrrggghh to OOOOOPSSS! Let's entirely forget that struck-out part above, in light of this item from TelecomAsia.net that a technically sophisticated friend just sent me.