General William Shelton, head of the Air Force Space Command, reported to members of the House of Representatives in a classified briefing earlier this month that he was pressured to change prepared congressional testimony about LightSquared, the company that wants to build a broadband network using GPS spectrum.
The report came from Fox News.
Republicans have raised questions about whether LightSquared is being unduly pushed by the Obama administration, which has advocated for competition between national wireless networks.
Fox did not report who allegedly pressured Shelton, although the White House, the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget usually give the okay before military testimony is released. Fox said a copy of Shelton’s prepared testimony was leaked to LightSquared.
The White House denied wrongdoing, saying that Shelton’s testimony went through the normal review process. Col. Kathleen Cook, a spokeswoman for Air Force Space Command, said Shelton’s testimony represented his own views.
“Our testimony is reviewed appropriately by (the office of the secretary of defense), then other executive branch agencies via the established OMB process,” Cook said. “In that process, it’s common to have edit exchanges and recommendations, but I can assure you Gen Shelton’s testimony was his own supported by and focused purely on documented test results.”
LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja and its billionaire backer, Phil Falcone, fired back at the Fox allegations in an exclusive interview with Politico. They denied receiving special treatment from the White House or the FCC in their ongoing quest to become the nation’s first wholesale wireless broadband provider.
“How LightSquared operated, and how LightSquared will continue to operate, is no different than what everybody else does,” Falcone said. “It’s completely appropriate and was within the guidelines of how business is conducted.”
“No one in the history of this country since Graham Bell invented the telephone” has had to do as much testing as LightSquared did this year of its network, Ahuja added. “We are going through the most rigorous set of obligations the FCC has put on us.”
At issue is whether the broadband company, which owns airwaves that sit next to GPS, can resolve interference issues that threaten to harm GPS systems. The GPS industry, a staunch opponent of LightSquared, maintains that there is no possible technical fix to the problem. The only solution, the industry claims, is for LightSquared to move off GPS airwaves.
The FCC has ordered another round of testing, seeking a solution to the issues.
The executives suggested that the threat LightSquared poses to incumbent wireless carriers, who are supported by the Republicans, might explain the real reason the company is facing such stiff political opposition. Falcone has publicly accused Verizon and AT&T of trying to undermine the company behind the scenes, which both companies deny.
“We have reason to believe that there are some companies out there … influencing certain people and certain constituents to make sure we never turn the lights on because we are a game changing business,” Falcone said.