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In February, the Federal Communications Commission withdrew its preliminary approval of a valuable regulatory waiver it granted to LightSquared. The company was attempting to build a satellite phone network in a band of spectrum adjacent to global positioning systems (GPS) spectrum. However, testing showed LightSquared’s network caused significant interference with critical GPS users such as the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
This occurred after Air Force Space Command General William Shelton said the White House had tried to pressure him to change his testimony to make it more favorable to a company tied to a large Democratic donor.
Eli Lake at The Daily Beast told us back then that:
“…the White House asked the general to alter the testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days. Shelton chafed at the intervention, which seemed to soften the Pentagon’s position and might be viewed as helping the company as it tries to get the project launched, officials said…”
Now Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Michael Turner are asking the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to account for how much taxpayer money the federal government spent to test LightSquared’s wireless network for interference with government telecommunications devices.
Grassley and Turner are concerned that the federal government spent millions of dollars on testing, and that the government might never recover the expenditure because LightSquared and its parent company, Harbinger Capital Partners, are in deep financial trouble, according to media reports.
“The federal government spent millions of taxpayer dollars on testing for a project that moved along only because the government gave approvals before resolving interference questions. Now, taxpayers are on the hook for the testing that showed that the project interfered with government devices using global positioning systems. The executive branch needs to account for just how much taxpayer money it spent and why.”
And Turner added:
“In the process of testing a system, which ultimately would have interfered with our military’s GPS receivers, taxpayers may have footed the bill to the tune of millions. The Administration owes Americans an explanation as to how much money was spent, and if those dollars will be recovered.”
Grassley and Turner made their request to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, located within the Department of Commerce. The agency is described as “the Executive Branch agency that is principally responsible by law for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues.”
So far it remains that the Obama administration retains the nickname of “channeling tax payer money to favored status contracts as payback for campaign contributions from businesses that go broke.”
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