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Lightsquared Ingratiating Itself With Lawmakers by Donating Phones to Native Americans

LightSquared’s basic business plan of delivering a nationwide 4G network has been an open question ever since the company’s technology threatened to obliterate GPS satellite navigation technology.  Now the company is taking a page from the Washington’s Public Relations Firm Playbook by ingratiating itself with important lawmakers that can make or break the multi-billion dollar endeavor.

LightSquared announced it is donating equipment and service to Native American organizations, starting in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Arizona — all conveniently located in key lawmakers’ states and districts.  In addition to agreeing to provide satellite phone service to remote tribal communities completely unserved by other technologies, LightSquared is also contributing 2,000 satellite telephones to the Indian Health Service, the federal agency responsible for administering health care to native populations on reservations and throughout tribal communities in Alaska.

How can the company deliver service over a network threatened with legislative obliteration?  LightSquared’s donation to Native Americans will rely on the company’s satellite network, which has not been deemed an interference generator by opponents.

Satellite telephony has proved to be obscenely expensive and of limited interest outside of military, shipping, and forest service applications.  At rates averaging up to $5 a minute or more, keeping conversations short is key to avoid bill shock.  Such technology is completely out of reach for most tribal communities, who are among the most income-challenged of all North Americans.  The contribution may buy the venture some goodwill on Capitol Hill, where it is sorely needed as skepticism over the company’s 4G service, to be operated on frequencies adjacent to GPS satellites, has reached an all-time-high.

LightSquared is learning the time-tested ways of Washington, where substance and common sense often take a back seat to political posturing, special interest politics, and campaign contributions.

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