Grassley scolds FCC on LightSquared handling

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2012- LightSquared had extensive help from influential lobbyists to gain approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the White House for its proposed high-speed wireless network, said Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, on the Senate floor yesterday. 

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He said LightSquared, the now-bankrupt wireless company, paid 53 different lobbyists, including a former White House counsel, one former governor, three former senators and nine former members of Congress, including a former Speaker and a former Minority Leader, to advocate for the proposed nationwide 4G network. 

“These lobbyists provided entry into the FCC and the White House, but they couldn't change the fact that LightSquared's network simply couldn't co-exist with GPS,” Grassley said.

The FCC granted LightSquared a conditional waiver last year to develop the network, but the commission pulled the waiver and blocked the network after tests showed it would interfere with GPS devices. Several agricultural groups opposed the LightSquared satellite/ground tower system, fearing it would unnecessarily interfere with farming GPS devices. 

“It seems strange that a project that was so obviously flawed was allowed to go so far, but LightSquared had help,” Grassley said, referring to the hired lobbyists. 

FCC denied Grassley's requested documents filed under the Freedom of Information Act, based on a statue indicating that its information's release is required only to committees with jurisdiction over the FCC. Grassley is working with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in “making sure that the FCC is open with the American people about the way they operate.”

“In over thirty years of conducting oversight I can say that when it comes to providing documents to Congress, the FCC is one of the worst federal agencies I have ever seen,” he said.

Grassley blocked a vote on President Barack Obama's nomination of two FCC officials, Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai, which he lifted recently after the FCC turned over LightSquared documents to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“It is unfortunate that the FCC's stubborn refusal to respond to my simple request for information forced me to place a hold on their nominations for the past four months,” Grassley said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “The FCC needs to learn a simple lesson from this episode. The public's business ought to be public.”


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