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In the past GPS's were not as accurate. The signal that civilians used had a randomly varying error to degrade the accuracy and limit its use by an enemy for military purposes. This was called selective availability (SA). SA was removed several years, I think it was April of 2000. The reason it was removed was that the military has developed methods to JAM the signal in localized areas. So if your GPS failed to work near a military area or other area demed critical by the military, then I suspect that the GPS signals were being JAMed.
 
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