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No Commissioners Slated for FCC LightSquared Hearing

FCC International Bureau Chief Mindel De La Torre and Office of Engineering and Technology Chief Julius Knapp are the only two witnesses slated for a House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the FCC's handling of the conditional waiver to LightSquared, according to the committee website.

The hearing will look at how the FCC came to the January 2011 decision to grant a conditional waiver to LightSquared to use satellite spectrum for terrestrial mobile service.

The FCC eventually moved to rescind the waiver due to what it and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration agreed were virtually irresolvable interference issues with GPS devices in adjacent spectrum. The waiver had always been conditioned on resolving those issues.

The FCC wanted LightSquared to be able to deliver a wholesale 4G mobile broadband service to boost competition in that space. It has since taken steps to loosen restrictions on satellite spectrum to make it more flexible and accommodating to companies, like Dish, who want to use satellite spectrum for terrestrial mobile broadband use.

In a background memo on the Friday hearing, committee staffers point out that the FCC has yet to make a final determination on vacating the waiver. While LightSquared has filed for bankruptcy -- LightSquared invested billions, banking that the GPS hurdles would be cleared -- it has said it was still willing to launch the service if the government would let it.

Following that bankruptcy filing, the parent House Energy and Commerce Committee launched an investigation into how the waiver was granted.

Among the issues committee staffers signaled could be addressed at the hearing:

"Did the FCC adequately consider the interests of other MSS [Mobile Satellite Service] operators and GPS providers throughout the course of its LightSquared deliberations?

"In the view of the FCC, is the overload interference to GPS receivers caused by (1) LightSquared improperly transmitting its signals into the GPS band or (2) GPS receivers failing to adequately filter transmissions from adjacent frequency bands?

"When did the FCC become aware of the possibility of overload interference to GPS receivers caused by the operation of terrestrial base stations in the L-band? Should the FCC have anticipated this issue prior to granting the January 2011 Conditional Waiver?

"How does the expansion of terrestrial operations in the MSS bands factor into the goals and objectives of the National Broadband Plan?"