Senator wants more info from FCC on broadband company

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is pressing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for more information on its review of a new next-generation wireless service from broadband provider LightSquared.

LightSquared plans to sell capacity on its network to cable, wireless and other firms. The FCC granted LightSquared a conditional waiver to access the band of spectrum adjacent to the spectrum used by the Global Positioning System (GPS) system in January.

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But officials in Las Vegas said over the weekend that tests of the new wireless network this week could result in GPS technology being unavailable in the area. Grassley wrote to the FCC seeking more details on its review of LightSquared's proposal on April 27 but has yet to receive answers to his questions.

“This project is controversial for two reasons. One, there are questions about whether it will block GPS technology, which is important to agriculture and other industries. Two, the principal behind this project is said to be under investigation by another agency for his financial dealings,” Grassley said Tuesday.

In addition, the Pentagon and Transportation Department have written to the commission to say they should have been involved in the decision since it could endanger military and aviation operations.

Grassley noted the FCC originally planned on holding the regulation open for public comment for just one week and said he was dismayed that it took pressure from outside stakeholders to extend the comment period another week.

"This accelerated timetable raises further concerns given that Phil Falcone, the senior managing director of Harbinger Capital, which owns LightSquared, faces an ongoing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into a $113 million improper transaction, which came to light in November 2010, shortly before the FCC gave notice of its dramatically accelerated timetable," Grassley said in the April letter.

"If anything, this investigation should have led the FCC to proceed with caution rather than step on the gas," the senator said.

Grassley requested all communications between the FCC and Falcone or any other Harbinger Capital and LightSquared employees. He also requested copies of all internal FCC communications regarding LightSquared or Harbinger Capital.

A spokesman for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski declined to comment for this article. Grassley vowed to keep looking for answers to his questions.

“This is an agency with a lot of power over public airwaves,” Grassley said. “I’ll continue to ask for information in the public’s interest.”