Last month, the Federal Communications Commission blocked wireless technology services from the Virginia company, LightSquared because of the interference it caused with Global Positioning System (GPS) signals. The move resulted in very public claims from the company and its hedge fund backer Philip Falcone, CEO of Harbinger Capitsl that the company would affirm its stance and may take legal action. The open volley of that action was released today in the form of a 400+ page response to the threat of having its license suspended.
The response opens with a blistering indictment of the FCC decision- “The Commission encouraged—and, indeed, affirmatively required— LightSquared to deploy a nationwide 4G LTE network by 2015 to aid the Commission in achieving its broadband policy goals. LightSquared committed fully to meeting the Commission’s mandate, investing more than $4 billion to extend competitive broadband access to hundreds of millions of consumers. The basic legal framework that enabled this investment in America’s future was established by a final Commission order almost seven years ago, after a four-year rulemaking process, and a licensing process in which the GPS industry provided support for the network that it now seeks to destroy.”
From there the company lays out its case noting that if there is interference with GPS devices, because of the LightSquared network it’s not their fault. The company further explains that the interference at the core of the FCC’s case is not new and was in fact known during many of the early discussions of the network.
Indeed, the company paid $100,000 for a Department of Defense study which studied the effect of any interference and determined that the effects were not significant.
Now, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is claiming that the problematic interference impacts devices that except frequencies from outside of its band. LightSquared counters this claim by noting that industry should not be required to protect poorly designed unregulated devices that operate outside of their supposed function.
The claims from the NTIA are included in the FCC public notice which prompted the response from LightSquared. The Public Notice threatens LightSquared’s right to deploy any ground component at all, which breaks precedent from previous FCC actions. LightSquared’s waiver is also under threat which allows the network to deploy devices lacking satellite capability.
The waiver is necessary so that the company can deploy Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATCs) which push the network signal out into the world. Historically, the FCC has offered to change bands for providers which LightSquared points out but, the FCC is out of spectrum to give.
The company has indicated that it is also working with legal counsel to address a potential civil action should the FCC stick by the claims in the public notice. An earlier story from Politico indicates that a “Department of Defense official urged his colleagues in 2010 to “synch up” with the GPS industry in order to defeat LightSquared’s plans to build the nation’s first wholesale broadband network.” An issue which gives credence to the claim from LightSquared that they are being treated unfairly and may be part of a legal challenge.