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Fri, Sep 16, 2011

White House Asked Military Official To Change GPS Interference Testimony

Some See The Attempt As A Payback To A Democratic Donor

Before he was scheduled to testify before a Congressional oversight committee, General William Shelton (pictured), who leads the Air Force Space Command, says he was asked by the White House to change his testimony to make it more sympathetic to a company trying to place a nationwide wireless broadband service on frequencies adjacent to the GPS spectrum.

The Pentagon, as well as nearly every, government, commercial, and private user of a GPS device, could be affected by the service proposed by LightSquared. The broadband company is proposing a service that would offer wireless broadband, 4G Internet service to resellers nationwide. But according to an online report in The Daily Beast, LightSquared is owned by an investment fund whose majority partner is Philip Falcone ... who has reportedly contributed more than $60,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Records show he has also given small amounts to Republicans.

The report indicates that the testimony to be given by Shelton in a classified hearing was leaked to LightSquared. Subsequently, the White House asked the general to change his prepared remarks to say that he supported the Administration's policy for increases in commercial broadband use, and that the DoD would work in a 90 day time frame to try to resolve interference issues. LightSquared denies that it was given access to the General's testimony prior to the hearing.

LightSquared insists that it is not trying to use politics to influence the process, but chafes at the fact that its plans have been delayed for a year by the interference testing. CEO Sanjiv Ahuja told The Daily Beast that they have been "forced" to commit $100 million to find a solution to the interference problem.

Ohio Republican Congressman Mike Turner said in an interview that, in his view, there was "an attempt to influence the text of the testimony and to engage LightSquared in the process in order to bias his (Shelton's) testimony."

Shelton did not change his remarks, and White House officials said there was never any pressure to make changes, simply a suggestion. Shelton likened the GPS spectrum to a "quiet neighborhood", and compared LightSquared's plan to "put(ting) a rock band in the middle of that quiet neighborhood."

On Tuesday, the FCC placed a notice in the Federal Register that said LightSquared's plan could not go forward until additional testing was conducted that proved conclusively that GPS reception would not be harmed by the company's 4G transmissions. In a report published by Reuters, LightSquared claims (again, ed) that it has resolved the GPS interference issue. The company says it has partnered with an unnamed "leader" in GPS technology, and together they have come up with a prototype that can provide the same accuracy as today's devices. LightSquared EVP of regulatory affairs and public policy Jeff Carlisle said the new prototype "uses current technology and equipment that is available today and affordable."

Carlisle on Wednesday repeated his company's claim that LightSquared is not the problem, but rather places the burden on the GPS industry for  building receivers that do not meet DoD standards.

FMI: www.fcc.gov, www.lightsquared.com

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