Office of the Press Secretary

President Clinton:

Improving the Civilian Global Positioning System (GPS)
May 1, 2000

“The decision to discontinue Selective Availability is the latest measure
in an ongoing effort to make GPS more responsive to civil and commercial
users worldwide. –This increase in accuracy will allow new GPS
applications to emerge and continue to enhance the lives of people around
the world.”

President Bill Clinton

May 1, 2000

GLOBE. GPS is a dual-use system, providing highly accurate positioning and
timing data for both military and civilian users. There are more than 4
million GPS users world wide, and the market for GPS applications is
expected to double in the next three years, from $8 billion to over $16
billion. Some of these applications include: air, road, rail, and marine
navigation, precision agriculture and mining, oil exploration,
environmental research and management, telecommunications, electronic data
transfer, construction, recreation and emergency response.
GPS IS THE GLOBAL STANDARD. GPS has always been the dominant standard
satellite navigation system thanks to the U.S. policy of making both the
signal and the receiver design specification available to the public
completely free of charge.

employed a technique called Selective Availability (SA) to globally degrade
the civilian GPS signal. New technologies demonstrated by the military
enable the U.S. to degrade the GPS signal on a regional basis. GPS users
worldwide would not be affected by regional, security-motivated, GPS
degradations, and businesses reliant on GPS could continue to operate at
peak efficiency.

It?s rare that someone can press a button and make something you already
own worth more, but that?s exactly what?s happening today. As of midnight
tonight, all the people who?ve bought GPS receivers for boats, cars, or
recreation will find that they are ten times more accurate.

The technology that makes this extraordinary technology possible grows
directly from our past research investments in basic physics, mathematics,
and engineering supported from NSF, DARPA, NIST and other Federal agencies
over a period of decades. GPS works because of super reliable atomic
clocks — no mechanical device could come close. These clocks resulted
from Nobel-prize winning physics, and creative engineering that managed to
package devices which once filled large physics laboratories into a
compact, reliable, space-worthy device. The improved, non-degraded signal
will increase civilian accuracy by an order of magnitude, and have
immediate implications in areas such as:

  • Car Navigation: Previously, a GPS-based car navigation could give the
    location of the vehicle to within a hundred meters. This was a problem,
    for example, in areas where multiple highways run in parallel, because the
    degraded signal made it difficult to determine which one the car was on.
    Terminating SA will eliminate such problems, leading to greater consumer
    confidence in the technology and higher adoption rates. It will also
    simplify the design of many systems (e.g., eliminate certain map matching
    software), thereby lowering their retail cost.

  • Enhanced-911: The FCC will soon require that all new cellular phones be
    equipped with more accurate location determination technology to improve
    responses to emergency 911 calls. Removing SA will boost the accuracy of
    GPS to such a degree that it could become the method of choice for
    implementing the 911 requirement. A GPS-based solution might be simpler
    and more economical than alternative techniques such as radio tower
    triangulation, leading to lower consumer costs.

  • Hiking, Camping, and Hunting: GPS is already popular among outdoor
    enthusiasts, but the degraded accuracy has not allowed them to precisely
    pin-point their location or the location of items (such as game) left
    behind for later recovery. With 20 meter accuracy or better, hikers,
    campers, and hunters should be able to navigate their way through unmarked
    wilderness terrain with increased confidence and safety. Moreover, users
    will find that the accuracy of GPS exceeds the resolution of U.S.
    Geological Survey (USGS) topographical quad maps.

  • Boating and Fishing: Recreational boaters will enjoy safer, more
    accurate navigation around sandbars, rocks, and other obstacles. Anglers
    will be able to more precisely locate their favorite spot on a lake or
    river. Lobsterers will be able to find and recover their traps more
    quickly and efficiently.

  • Increased Adoption of GPS Time: In addition to more accurate position
    information, the accuracy of the time data broadcast by GPS will improve to
    within 40 billionths of a second. Such precision may encourage adoption of
    GPS as a preferred means of acquiring Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) and
    for synchronizing everything from electrical power grids and cellular phone
    towers to telecommunications networks and the Internet. For example, with
    higher precision timing, a company can stream more data through a fiber
    optic cable by tightening the space between data packets. Using GPS to
    accomplish this is far less costly than maintaining private atomic clock

    Additional information about GPS and the Selective Availability decision is
    available online at the Interagency GPS Executive Board web site: