WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is seeking disclosure and transparency from the Federal Communications Commission about a new wireless Internet network project that appears on a fast track for approval from the agency, despite concerns about the impact on other technologies and possible financial problems behind the operation.
“This project is controversial for two reasons. One, there are questions about whether it will block GPS technology, which is important to agriculture and other industries. Two, the principal behind this project is said to be under investigation by another agency for his financial dealings,” Grassley said. “The FCC’s unusual fast-tracking of this project before its effects have been fully tested raises questions about whether the agency did its due diligence. I’m looking for answers to these questions so taxpayers can be assured that the government is treating public property the way it ought to be treated. So far, the FCC hasn’t provided any of the information I’ve requested. It should, in the interest of transparency in doing the public’s business.”
Grassley recently wrote to the FCC, asking for information related to the agency’s consideration of the LightSquared project, which various industries warn would produce signals that could jam existing navigation systems used in farming, air travel, law enforcement, by the military and in general consumer navigation. The head of the hedge fund behind the project told investors that his firm is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegations of market manipulation, according to media reports. The firm has been the subject of considerable media attention for losing large amounts of money and other controversies including whether the firm should have told investors in a timely fashion about a $113 million loan it extended to the principal of the firm.
Grassley has not received the information he requested from the FCC. “This is an agency with a lot of power over public air waves,” Grassley said. “I’ll continue to ask for information in the public’s interest.”
This week, officials in the Las Vegas area say GPS could be unavailable as LightSquared technology is tested, causing concern for military operations and other non-commercial pilots.
The FCC has granted a conditional waiver for LightSquared to proceed with its wireless network. A coalition of groups has objected to what it considers the unprecedented speed with which the FCC is allowing the company to move forward.
The text of Grassley’s letter to the FCC is available here.