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Lawmakers Urge FCC to Resist Political Pressures on LightSquared

U.S. regulators should “resist political pressures” to approve Philip Falcone’s LightSquared wireless service, two Republican lawmakers said today.

The Federal Communications Commission should bear in mind benefits from the global-positioning system, which may be disrupted by LightSquared, Representative Thomas Petri of Wisconsin and Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

LightSquared wants to offer wholesale service through a network of 40,000 base stations using airwaves previously reserved mainly for satellites. GPS devices rely on satellite signals, and makers of GPS gear say LightSquared’s network would disrupt navigation by planes, boats, tractors and automobiles.

Seven House Republicans earlier asked for records of contacts between the White House and Falcone, citing concerns about possible political pressure on U.S. agencies.

The Reston, Virginia-based company, backed by Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund, needs FCC approval to start service. At the FCC’s directive, GPS companies and federal agencies tested LightSquared signals for interference between January and June, and more tests are planned.

“We have never seen the entire federal government and so many private companies directed to expend such considerable financial resources and man hours to accommodate a single company’s desires,” Grassley and Petri said in the letter.

Grassley serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Petri is chairman of the House subcommittee on aviation.

Controversial Proposal

“It is odd that the FCC has pegged the hopes” of more wireless high-speed Internet service “on such a controversial proposal by a single applicant,” the lawmakers said. “We urge you to resist political pressures to grant LightSquared an authorization that could jeopardize the nation’s unique spectrum resource -- GPS.”

Tammy Sun, an FCC spokeswoman, and Chris Stern, a Washington-based spokesman for LightSquared, declined to comment.

Some U.S. officials have been reluctant to testify on GPS interference and agencies haven’t provided information, Representative Ralph Hall, of Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and six colleagues wrote in a letter Sept. 20.

The White House “ fully respected the FCC’s independent process” and administration witnesses testifying before Congress identified GPS problems, Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, said in an e-mail on Sept. 20.

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