LightSquared Waiver Subject of House Hearing
Oversight and Investigations looks into series of unfortunate events
September 17, 2012
WASHINGTON: The House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
will hold a hearing this Friday on the fast-track waiver LightSquared received
from the Federal Communications Commission allowing it to proceed with
terrestrial broadband operations in spectrum designated primarily for satellite
The subcommittee, headed by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), will follow up on a
February request directed at FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski seeking an
explanation for the waiver and the process leading up to it. Stearns, Commerce
Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of
the Communications and Technology Subcommittee asked for all written and
electronic communications pertaining to the waiver. They also submitted a
series of questions, including why the waiver was granted without a vote, and
if the move was unprecedented.
LightSquared secured the waiver in January of 2011, on the condition that its
proposed network did not interfere with global positioning systems operating in
adjacent spectrum. The far-reaching GPS community united in opposition to
LightSquared, prompting a flood of comments at the FCC. Several tests over the
next year indicated that full GPS noninterference could not be achieved. They
were disputed by LightSquared, but the FCC vacated the waiver in early 2012.
LightSquared, backed by New York-based hedge fund Harbinger Capital, filed for bankruptcy
in May. Harbinger had invested a reported $3 billion in LightSquared,
envisioned as a wholesale provider of 4G LTE wireless broadband service. The
venture secured more than 30 wholesale agreements before the FCC waiver was
vacated. It also cut a $9 billion, 15-year shared services deal with Sprint,
which Sprint terminated in March, with LightSquared getting $65 million in the
break-up, according to Reuters.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers came together in June and asked the FCC to
review alternative spectrum for LightSquared, Ars
Technica reported. In July, Bloomberg
reported that the company was working on debtor-in-possession loans of as
much as $51.4 million to make spectrum lease payments and fund “building
Doug Smith, architect of the proposed network and LightSquared’s former chief
network officer, was appointed board chairman and CEO in August, replacing
former CEO Sanjiv Ahuja.
This week’s hearing, entitled “The
LightSquared Network: An Investigation of the FCC’s Role,” is scheduled for 9:30
a.m. Sept. 21 in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House
Office Building. Witnesses will be announced and are by invitation only.
~ Deborah D. McAdams