FCC backs down on LightSquared, Grassley digs in


The FCC had cleared the way for LightSquared to offer a new mobile broadband service pending resolution of interference problems, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been questioning the process. Now NTIA has reported the problems unresolved, FCC has blocked initiation of LightSquared service, and Grassley is even more adamant about his request for FCC documentation.

FCC spokesperson Tammy Sun said the LightSquared proceeding was pursued in a way to advance the increase in availability of frequency for new mobile wireless service, and for that reason the LightSquared project was advanced, but in full acknowledgement that interference issues had to be resolved.

NTIA, watching out for military and federal spectrum needs, concluded that there was no way to avoid interference at present, so the FCC duly kept LightSquared from continuing.

“This proceeding has revealed challenges to maximizing the opportunities of mobile broadband for our economy,” said Sun. “In particular, it has revealed challenges to removing regulatory barriers on spectrum that restrict use of that spectrum for mobile broadband. This includes receivers that pick up signals from spectrum uses in neighboring bands. There are very substantial costs to our economy and to consumers of preventing the use of this and other spectrum for mobile broadband. Congress, the FCC, other federal agencies, and private sector stakeholders must work together in a concerted effort to reduce regulatory barriers and free up spectrum for mobile broadband. Part of this effort should address receiver performance to help ensure the most efficient use of all spectrum to drive our economy and best serve American consumers.”

That is not at all how Grassley sees it. He stated, “The FCC’s action seems to acknowledge the point I’ve been making since April. Prematurely granting a conditional waiver in a rushed process is not the way to get the right result. Now that the interference issue is settled, we need to find out more than ever why the FCC did what it did. The agency put this project on a fast track for approval with what appears to have been completely inadequate technical research. After all of this time and expense, still, no one outside of the agency knows why. That’s not the way the people’s government should work. The public’s business ought to be public. Now that the FCC has backtracked on LightSquared, I’d like to see my Senate colleagues join my document request, especially the chairman of the only Senate committee that the FCC is willing to answer. If we don’t find out how and why the FCC failed to avoid this controversy, then it will keep operating as a closed shop instead of the open, publicly accountable agency it should be.”

RBR-TVBR observation: It looks like FCC commissioner nominees Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai should plan on hanging on to their current jobs for the time being.