Broadband firm returns fire in GPS battle

LightSquared said it isn't the political puppet master it's been made out to be in the battle over GPS interference.

Virginia broadband startup LightSquared fired right back after the House Armed Services Committee hearing at which government officials said its network would jam military GPS. The narrative that LightSquared is a deep-pocketed political octopus that wants to imperil military readiness just isn’t true, CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said in a statement.

Here were his exact words:

Regulators from both parties understand LightSquared’s approach will create more competition in the marketplace, put downward pressure on the prices paid by consumers, create good paying jobs in the tech sector, and give Americans access to the most modern cellular technology.

LightSquared’s plan has drawn bipartisan support because it’s right for the country. Any suggestion that LightSquared has run roughshod over the regulatory process is contradicted by the reality of eight long years spent gaining approvals. Just this week, there has been another request from the government for an additional round of testing of LightSquared’s network.

We understand that some in the telecom sector fear the challenges for their business model that LightSquared presents. We understand the opposition of some in the GPS industry; many of their devices “squat” on someone else’s spectrum and while technological fixes are readily available, some companies are loath to make the necessary engineering changes and would instead prefer to get access to someone else’s spectrum for free.

It’s also ludicrous to suggest LightSquared’s success depends on political connections. This is a private company that has never taken one dollar in taxpayer money. About $10,600 sits in the LightSquared PAC. The founder of LightSquared has given to candidates in both political parties in the last eight years, with two thirds of his contributions going to Republicans because of the founder’s free market philosophy. I gave $30,400 in contributions to both parties in late 2010.

It’s difficult to charge that LightSquared has undue political influence when it was denied the opportunity to testify at [Sept. 15’s] hearing of the House Armed Service Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee – or even be allowed a one-on-one meeting with the chairman of that committee prior to the hearing, as the GPS industry was given.

True: Subcommittee chair Rep. Mike Turner made much of the fact that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski did not show up to testify, but he did not mention whether he had invited anyone from LightSquared — evidently they asked to be there and were “denied,” per Ahuja’s statement.

So what’s next? The message that subcommittee Democrats tried to get home last week was that the feds and LightSquared can work all this out, that there’s a way to get some kind of compromise here. But Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William Shelton didn’t sound so confident; he said as far as he knew, there were no “mitigation measures” for protecting military GPS from LightSquared’s interference. So the basic dispute here — how to square this company’s proposals with what the military says is an essential capability — is unresolved.