Grassley Presses FCC for Data On LightSquared’s Conditional Waiver

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Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) continues to press the Federal Communications Commission for information about a conditional waiver the agency granted in January to LightSquared Inc. to proceed with the building of a new nationwide wireless broadband network.

In a letter sent July 5 to the FCC, Grassley renewed his call for data related to the agency's review of LightSquared's project, again raising concerns about interference to GPS operations and alleged financial problems facing the company.

Late last week, LightSquared filed a much-anticipated report with the FCC detailing possible GPS interference with its broadband network, along with a formal proposal to use a different block of spectrum than the one originally slated to safeguard the most critical of U.S. GPS operations.

Test results have shown that the company's upper 10 MHz block of frequencies interfered with GPS receivers used by the Coast Guard, NASA, and the Federal Aviation Administration, and caused GPS receivers used by state police, fire, and ambulance crews to lose reception, which remains among Grassley's main concerns.

“If anything, the shadows around the LightSquared project should have led the [FCC] to proceed with caution rather than step on the gas,” Grassley said in a statement. “The opposite happened and the FCC needs to be held accountable. The public spectrum is limited, and it's a valuable asset that the communications is responsible for protecting.”

In April, Grassley wrote to the FCC requesting e-mails between LightSquared; Harbinger Capital Partners, which controls LightSquared; Phillip Falcone, founder and chief executive officer of Harbinger; and the commission. He also demanded communications between the FCC and the White House regarding Falcone.

In his statement and letter, Grassley again took issue with the FCC's “unusual” fast-tracking of the project before its effects have been fully tested.

Although the FCC gave LightSquared its preliminary approval in January to begin rolling out its network, the agency said it would withhold final approval until the company and the GPS industry resolve all interference issues.

By Paul Barbagallo

For the letter, visit http://grassley.senate.gov/about/upload/LightSquared-7-5-11-pdf-of-letter-to-Genachowski-seeking-full-accounting.pdf .