Republican urges LightSquared's approval as sides make final push

GOP Rep. Alan Nunnelee (Miss.) urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to not block wireless startup LightSquared's planned 4G network in a filing with the agency.

"This technology is too important to the 260 million Americans looking forward to the affordable access that only LightSquared can provide, to close the door at this point, and I urge you to do everything you can to find a solution,” Nunnelee wrote in a formal comment to the FCC.

Although the FCC granted LightSquared a conditional waiver to move forward last year, testing has shown its network could interfere with GPS devices. After a review concluded there was no feasible way to fix the interference problem, the FCC said it would pull LightSquared's waiver and bar it from launching its network.

ADVERTISEMENT

“LightSquared has proven that there are practical, affordable solutions to the interference issues that have been presented in the past. Now, as the GPS industry scrambles to keep LightSquared out of its own licensed spectrum, it is a huge disappointment that the FCC appears to be siding with GPS and ignoring the fact that LightSquared has invested billions of dollars and done everything asked of them up to this point to resolve interference with GPS devices," Nunnelee wrote.

He suggested that the FCC should find new frequencies for LightSquared to use if it cannot fix the interference problem.

"If the GPS manufacturers refuse to fix the receivers that have been designed to utilize LightSquared’s spectrum, give LightSquared new spectrum," Nunnelee wrote.

Friday is the deadline for comments on the FCC's proposal to block LightSquared, and March 30 is the deadline for responses. Nunnelee sent his letter on Feb. 28.

Testing showed that LightSquared's signal does not bleed into the GPS band. Instead, the problem is that GPS receivers are too sensitive to filter out LightSquared's powerful cell towers operating on nearby frequencies.

LightSquared claims it is the GPS industry's responsibility to build receivers that only listen to their own designated frequencies, but GPS companies argue that LightSquared is trying to build a cellphone network relying on frequencies that should only be used by satellites, which transmit much fainter signals.

Other officials who filed comments in support of LightSquared include three Mississippi state representatives, a Miami, Ohio, county commissioner, and a county official from Beattyville, Ky. 

Groups who urged the FCC to move forward with its proposal to block LightSquared's network include the National Association of Manufacturers, American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, the National Society of Professional Surveyors and Georgia Cotton Commission.

In its filing, the Coalition to Save Our GPS, which represents the GPS companies, noted that language inserted into a government funding bill specifically bars the FCC from approving LightSquared until it fixes the interference problem. The coalition argued the legislation requires the FCC to reject LightSquared.

The group said allowing LightSquared to move forward would cause widespread problems with GPS devices, including those used to navigate airplanes. 

"While the Coalition recognizes that making more spectrum available for terrestrial mobile broadband is a laudable goal, it cannot come at the expense of an existing, critical service like GPS," the group wrote.


Some Republicans have questioned whether the FCC and the White House have shown inappropriate favoritism to LightSquared. Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Grassley leads Finkenauer by 18 points in hypothetical matchup: poll 62 percent in Iowa disapprove of Biden, poll shows MORE (R-Iowa) has vowed to block President Obama's two FCC nominees unless the agency released internal records on its review of the company.

The White House and the FCC have denied giving any special treatment to LightSquared, but expanding broadband access has been a top priority for both agencies. 

Last September, Rep. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBoehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Boehner finally calls it as he sees it MORE (R-Minn.) accused Obama of "crony capitalism" for allegedly giving favor to his political supporters, pointing to Harbinger Capital's Philip Falcone.

Falcone, who has donated thousands of dollars to both Democrats and Republicans in recent years, says he is a registered Republican and denied any attempts to influence the process through political connections.