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Grassley Complains FCC Wouldn't Make Staffers Available

Hope that a House Energy & Commerce Committee request last week for documents on LightSquared might break a logjam on FCC nominees might have been premature.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who had threatened a hold on the nominees until the FCC produced such info, Wednesday sent a memo to reporters blasting the FCC for not making a couple of staffers available to his staff to talk about the LightSquared waiver.

The FCC granted LightSquared a waiver to deliver terrestrial wireless broadband service using spectrum allocated to satellite delivery, but it was always conditioned on resolving interference issues with GPS. The commission has since decided to rescind the waiver over unreconciled problems with GPS interference. LigthSquared has maintained there is a solution, but the FCC and other government agencies concluded from testing that was not the case, at least in the short term.

"The FCC chairman wrote to me last October that he would ‘continue to make staff available to discuss this matter further' with me or my staff at our convenience,'" said Grassley in the memo. "That turned out to be an empty offer." The staffers in question were Paul De Sa, who was not made available says Grassley and has since left the agency. The other is Josh Gottheimer, who was just named director of a new public-private initiative to implement key elements of the FCC's National Broadband Plan.

Grassley's office asked for access to Gottheimer in a Jan. 30 letter, and says the FCC has subsequently refused to make him available. "It's unfortunate that this agency operates as a closed shop when the public's business ought to be public," said Grassley, though he did give shout out to the House E&C document request. "The good news is a key House committee is trying to shed light on the FCC's thinking on LightSquared.  Some transparency might be required of the agency after all."

The FCC declined Grassley's request for LightSquared documents because he was not the head of a relevant committee, but an FCC spokesperson indicated last week  the commission would continue to cooperate with the committee, which at least suggested the documents could be forthcoming.

Grassley has concerns with how the waiver was granted, and wants documents on any contacts with the White House, among others.

An FCC spokesperson was not available for comment. A House Energy & Commerce Committee source speaking on background said that the committee was still waiting to receive the FCC documents -- the letter requesting the documents set no deadline -- and had not scheduled, or ruled out, a hearing on LightSquared.