LightSquared Complains It Was Left Out of GPS Hearing

LightSquared said Wednesday that it was shut out of a House GPS hearing it called a trial in absentia of its proposed wholesale wireless broadband network.

"LightSquared was denied a seat at the witness table today before the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee," the company said in a statement. "Despite repeated requests, we were told there was no need to testify because LightSquared was not the subject of the hearing. We are dismayed but not surprised to hear today that this hearing was little more than a one-sided trial of LightSquared in absentia.  It's outrageous that a congressional hearing set up to examine factual issues was only focused on one side of the story -- a side of the story supported by commercial GPS makers who designed faulty devices that depend on using spectrum licensed to LightSquared."

A subcommittee spokesperson was not available for comment at press time, but a Feb. 6 memo to members from subcommittee Chairman Thomas Petri on the Feb. 8 hearing (posted on the committee's Web site) signaled LightSquared's ears should have been burning.

"The reliability of the GPS signal, a critical element of transportation safety infrastructure, has been under threat from a commercial interest, LightSquared," he wrote. He followed that up with a list of the LightSquared issues to be addressed at the hearing, including whether the GPS signal should be protected from interference as a matter of law.

At the hearing, Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari said flatly: "There appears to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS." That point was driven home by three witnesses, all members of the Coalition to Save Our GPS.

The FCC is currently in the process of vetting test data and a report from the National Telecommunications & Information Administration that suggests there continues to be interference issues -- LightSquared challenges the data's accuracy. The FCC will then render a decision about how and whether to let LightSquared proceed. The FCC would like to see LightSquared create price and service competition to established carriers, but also said in granting it a waiver to use satellite spectrum for terrestrial service that GPS interference issues had to be resolved first.

LightSquared has separately asked the FCC to find that it is within its right to use its licensed spectrum and that GPS manufacturers do not have a right to interference protections because they are not licensed users. And just this week, it added a request that the FCC set receiver reliability standards.

At the hearing, according to Petri's office, Porcari suggested DOT and NTIA could beat the FCC to the punch. "We propose to work with [the National Telecommunications and Information Administration] to draft new GPS spectrum interference standards that will help inform future proposals for non-space, commercial uses in the bands adjacent to the GPS signals, to strengthen existing national policy protection of adjacent band spectrum."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.