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House Republicans Blame FCC for LightSquared’s Demise; “Billions Wasted”

Phillip Dampier May 16, 2012 LightSquared, Public Policy & Gov't, Rural Broadband, Wireless Broadband 1 Comment

Walden

House Republicans attacked the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday for “rushing” special waivers and conditions that allowed LightSquared to begin operations without fully considering its impact on GPS devices and services.

GOP Reps. Cliff Stearns (Fla.), Fred Upton (Mich.), and Greg Walden (Ore.) said the need for intensifying an investigation first launched in February was more pertinent than ever with this week’s bankruptcy declaration by the wireless Internet service.

“Now, more than ever, we need to get to the bottom of how we got this far down a dead-end road,” said the congressmen in a joint statement. “There are many unanswered questions, specifically about whether the FCC’s own objectives led to sloppy process. We are continuing to examine the information we’ve received so far to determine what happened and how it can be avoided in the future.”

Upton

All three said the FCC’s “rushed” review cost investors billions that were “wasted” building a broadband network that was later determined to create serious interference problems for global positioning satellite receivers.

The FCC previously denied they were pressured by Obama Administration officials to approve the project as part of the White House’s strong focus on broadband improvement.

But the House Republicans believe the interference problems should have been identified before the project got too far along.

Initially, the FCC issued a conditional approval to begin testing the service, which quickly led to growing evidence it unintentionally blocked GPS reception.

A preliminary report found GPS receivers were incapable of rejecting the adjacent channel interference from LightSquared’s powerful ground-based transmitters.

While technically not the fault of LightSquared, which argued it should not be held responsible for poor GPS receiver design, the fact millions of GPS receivers are already in use swayed the FCC to reject the use of those frequencies for the wireless Internet service.

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Andrew Madigan
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Andrew Madigan

It was conditional to allow the company to try to prove that they had a way around the interference. They didn’t have any way to avoid interference, and they hadn’t tested real-world GPS systems before applying for the conditional license. They knew (or should have known) the risks, and if their investors didn’t know then that is the fault of corporate management, not the FCC.

If the FCC had simply blocked the license in the first place republicans would be complaining about “infringement on free enterprise”.

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