TIMELINES: What satellite technology became widely available with the flip of a switch by the White House on May 2, 2000?

May 2, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


May 2, 2000, at midnight, under President Bill Clinton, the U.S. Department of Defense disabled the “selective availability” feature on 24 satellites around the Earth—allowing the general public much more precise access to global positioning systems technology known as GPS. “The United States will stop the intentional degradation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) signals available to the public beginning at midnight tonight,” stated a White House press release. The U.S. government had developed the technology and maintained tight control of it since its initial stages in 1993 when the U.S. Air Force launched the last of the 24 Navstar satellites, designed for global positioning information for military advantage during the Cold War.


Today, people around the world use GPS technology to navigate from one location to the next without the use of paper maps. According to the Washington Post, by 2009, GPS technology became a $30 billion worldwide market. During the same year, analyst firm Berg Insight pointed out that approximately 150 million systems were in use worldwide. Today, products that feature GPS capabilities are used by people around the world in vehicles and, more recently, in cellphones and smartphones.