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Upton, Walden, Stearns Ask for LightSquared Documents

The chairs of House FCC oversight committees and subcommittees have asked for documents related to the commission's approval of LightSquared's acquisition of spectrum licenses and its grant of a conditional waiver to LightSquared so that it could use those satellite licenses for a terrestrial wholesale wireless broadband network.

In a letter to the FCC, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the Space-Based Positioning, Navigation & Timing (GPS) Executive Committee (PNT ExCom), Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) E&C Committee chair, Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Communications Subcommittee chair, and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said they wanted a boatload of documents between those three, the White House, GPS industry members and others.

Based partly on an NTIA recommendation following interference testing (by PNT ExCom), the FCC earlier this month decided that there was no short-term fix for LightSquared interference with GPS, which the waiver had always been conditioned on resolving. The FCC has moved to rescind the waiver.

"[W]ith the recent tentative decision to limit LightSquared's license to satellite-based service," the legislators said, "there remain many unanswered questions, particularly whether the processes used by the FCC, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the interagency National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing were appropriate."

They said the underlying issues "have broader implications for spectrum management generally." The FCC decision essentially takes a chunk of spectrum out of play that could have helped relieve some of the wireless broadband spectrum crunch behind a number of FCC policies, including reclaiming spectrum from broadcasters.

The legislators also want some questions answered, including why the FCC's conditional waiver was granted on delegated authority, without a full commission vote; why the FCC provided only a 20 day comment/reply comment cycle on the waiver; why the waiver also included a provision preventing Verizon and AT&T from being LightSquared customers (the FCC was trying to promote price and service competition to those largest carriers), when the FCC realized that there would be GPS interference from LightSquared's terrestrial broadcasts in its satellite spectrum allocation and more.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said that his hold would remain on pending FCC nominees until he got access to the LightSquared documents, whether from the FCC directly or the House Energy & Commerce Committee.