There is a fascinating debate playing out in Washington that will impact nearly every American. It is over whether the federal government should allow an upstart company called LightSquared to enter the telecom market as a new national wireless broadband provider.
Anyone with a cell phone, computer or a tablet, should be paying attention, because LightSquared is proposing to build something that currently does not exist: a high-speed wireless system that reaches almost every corner of America, including underserved rural areas and over-capacity urban areas.
LightSquared proposed investing $14 billion in private dollars on a plan that would bring wireless broadband to 260 million Americans by 2015, and create 15,000 jobs a year over the five-year build out of the network. LightSquared is a satellite company, and its unique model would create the nation’s first broadband system that uses a combination of satellite and cell tower technology. Because satellite signals are ubiquitous, using them as a back up to terrestrial service would eliminate the massive service holes that still exist all over America, bringing high-speed internet for the first time to vast swaths of the country that have never had it.
But of course, nothing is that easy – especially in Washington. The slice of spectrum the government licensed to LightSquared is next to the spectrum allocated to GPS, which is used broadly in America for both public and commercial purposes. And the GPS industry has launched a mighty lobbying and public relations campaign, rife with scare tactics designed to stoke partisan opposition and stop LightSquared.