Advisory Board: LightSquared, GPS Can't Coexist; Bland News Stories Avoid Falcone, Obama and Dem Campaign $

January 15th, 2012 8:50 PM

On Friday, two Deputy Secretaries, one at the Department of Transportation and the other at Defense, in their capacities as co-chairs of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Executive Committee, released a one page letter concluding that the modified broadband deployment plan of LightSquared could not coexist with current GPS devices and their spectrum. That's because: a) LightSquared's deployment "would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers"; b) It would not be "compatible with several GPS-dependent aircraft safety-of-flight systems," and c) "there appear to be no practical solutions" to the problems.

Stories about the release, to the extent they exist, are largely avoiding the mention of "Falcone" (that's hedge fund operator and heavy Obama campaign contributor Philip Falcone, "SEC" (which is investigating Falcone and his hedge fund, and "Obama" (as in President Barack Obama, the beneficiary along with the "Democratic Party" -- another unmentioned term in any variation -- of said contributions). Coverage by Daniel Fisher at Forbes at least brings up Falcone, the SEC, and the Obama administration:

The finding by the PNT committee strikes a severe blow against Falcone who has poured billions of dollars of his own and investors’ money into LightSquared. He suspended redemptions from his Harbinger Capital after investors, who made $10 billion off of his successful bet against subprime securities, sought to pull their money from the fund that has since shrunk to $5 billion. He also faces unrelated Securities and Exchange Commission allegations of insider trading that could result in his suspension from the securities industry.

In response to the PNT committee announcement Harbinger said this: "We are confident that the tests, when the protocol is disclosed and the details are examined, will be shown to be invalid. ... This is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt by government agencies to protect the interests of the GPS industry who are unauthorized users infringing on spectrum licensed to LightSquared."

Regardless of how Falcone fares, his spectrum will likely remain valuable. In the letter, the PNT committee said it continues to “strongly support” President Obama’s push for an additonal 500 megaherz of spectrum for broadband wireless use as cellular phones and other devices display an exponentially rising hunger for wireless bandwidth.

By contrast:

  • I couldn't locate any mention of LightSquared in over a month in an advanced search on the company's name at the New York Times.
  • The Associated Press story by Joan Lowy has a bland "Don't read me, I'm boring" headline ("Officials: Broadband plan would disrupt GPS") and contains none of the four key words/terms listed earlier.
  • The Washington Post is only carrying the AP story and a somewhat puffy item about the company's new Chief Financial Officer (hmm).
  • A Google News search for the past week done tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET (sorted by date without duplicates) returns 73 results -- pretty light for a story of this gravity.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air brought up another point I didn't see elsewhere:

The ball now goes back to the FCC’s court, but they have a big problem. The newly-signed National Defense Authorization Act created a legal restriction on the FCC to ensure that current GPS services remain free of interference, and have to report every 90 days for the next two years on that status. With two governmental bodies reporting to the FCC that LSQ’s system substantially interferes with GPS systems in commercial, military, and aviation applications, there is almost certainly no legal way that the FCC can sign off on Philip Falcone’s attempt to build a 4G network on the cheap.

If the Obama administration is lucky, LightSquared will quietly go away. The press is ready to bury it; the only question appears to be whether the company and Falcone will cooperate by dropping their current contentious posture and sell the valuable spectrum to someone else.

Cross-posted at