Grassley May Lift Hold on FCC Nominations With ‘Firm Indication' on Document Access

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By Paul Barbagallo  

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) might release his hold on the confirmation of two new members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) if he receives a “firm indication” that he will be granted access to documents relating to the agency's January 2011 conditional approval of LightSquared Inc.'s proposal to build a nationwide broadband network, an aide to the senator told Bloomberg BNA March 13.

Grassley may decide to release the hold even “before he actually has the [documents] in hand,” the aide added. The determining factor will be his access to the documents, and whether those documents contain information that he has been requesting for months from the commission.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC, has called on the agency to produce the documents. The FCC has said it will comply.

Grassley is not the chair of a relevant committee, and the agency has maintained that it will only provide documents on cases to committee chairs.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee, told reporters last month that he will share the documents that the FCC submits with Grassley.

“[The senator] expects that the House members can share these documents with him without tripping any legal issues,” the Grassley aide said, when asked about the procedure for disclosing agency documents across chambers of Congress.

“We're not aware of any procedural hurdles that would prevent Rep. Walden from sharing documents received from the FCC, especially voluntarily provided documents,” the aide said.

Outspoken Critic.

Among members of Congress, Grassley has been the most outspoken critic of the process by which the FCC granted LightSquared a waiver to begin rolling out its network.

The senator has repeatedly asked the FCC to produce emails and other written communications among LightSquared; Harbinger Capital Partners, which controls LightSquared; billionaire hedge-fund manager Phillip Falcone, the founder and chief executive officer of Harbinger; and the commission. Grassley also has requested access to communications between the FCC and the White House regarding Falcone. But so far, he says, he has not received any of these records.

Grassley's main contention with the FCC is its alleged preferential treatment to LightSquared, and its decision to give the company preliminary approval to build a network despite concerns about interference.

The commission has since move to rescind that approval, after government tests revealed that the network will cause harmful interference to government and private-sector users of global positioning systems devices.