Sen. Grassley Continues, LightSquared and Others on Hold
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), has requested information from GPS companies in regard to communications between the investment group (Harbinger Capital Partners), the FCC and the White House prior to the granting of an ancillary terrestrial waiver to LightSquared. Sen. Grassely has given the GPS group, which includes Garmin and John Deere, a deadline of January 25. He has requested the same info from the FCC and Harbinger Capital Partners.
Sen. Grassley is holding up confirmation of two new FCC Commissioners. Senate approval of the the nominations cannot move forward until he drops his objection. The FCC has indicated that it is not required to provide the requested materials to Sen. Grassley, as he is not a member of the Senate committee that has oversight over the commission.
Sen. Grassely’s inquiry into the waiver has to do with a “short” comment period prior to the commission granting the ancillary terrestrial waiver. Sen. Grassely has indicated that he will continue to hold up confirmation of the new commissioners until he has been given the information he is requesting from all of those involved.
In a related story, LightSquared and Sprint Nextel reached the end of the preliminary agreement whereby Sprint would assist in the network management of the new network and provide the essential terrestrial presence once LightSquared had been cleared to launch service. The two companies had stipulated that LightSquared must gain approval to begin service prior to the contract becoming binding. At this point, the two have agreed to remain in contact and vigilant of the situation.
This past week, LightSquared Vice President Jeffrey Carlisle, Consultant Ashley Durmer and President of Harbinger Capital Partners Philip Falcone met with the FCC to discuss a “path forward” as LightSquared is running dangerously low on cash, after significant investments were made according to the FCC guidelines for companies working to increase the availability of broadband in the United States.
LightSquared discussed operating at reduced power levels and using alternative technical solutions in order to get the business started. The waiver limits LightSquared to controlled testing only until it is proven that LightSquared does not interfere with GPS or other navigational signaling. LightSquared reiterated the current interference issue as beyond its responsibility as the GPS industry designs lead to the interference. The GPS industry counters that the spectrum used by LightSquared was intended for satellite traffic and not terrestrial communications.
NTIA had indicated that it would resume interference testing in the LightSquared controlled “S Band” spectrum. However, late on January 13, information released by LightSquared ran contrary, indicating that the Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT), and National Executive Committee had determined that they would not perform additional testing of the LightSquared spectrum.
Earlier analysis of the government-led follow-up testing performed on LightSquared’s proposed network has shown wide patterns of interference that disrupt both GPS signaling and aircraft positioning signaling. However, LightSquared maintains that the government’s testing reflects bias against LightSquared.