FCC to Sen. Grassley: ‘Sorry, Charlie’

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Washington —Sen. Charles Grassley (R. Iowa),
ranking member of the Judiciary Committee,
is not happy with the FCC’s response to
his request for documents that would shed a little
more light on the waiver LightSquared received
from the agency to create its hybrid terrestrial/
satellite wireless broadband network.

The chairman of the Federal Communications
Commission, Harvard-trained lawyer Julius
Genachowski, informed him in a response
last Tuesday (July 26) that the agency did not
respond to requests from individual members, but only
to those from the chairmen of the relevant oversight
committee, per the Congressional Oversight Manual.
Grassley is the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary

“Refusing a legitimate request in the public interest
should require more justifi cation than ‘we don’t have to.’
What is the FCC hiding?” Grassley said in a response issued
the next day (July 27). Genachoswki’s missive was
a response to Grassley’s July 5 letter following up on an
April 27 request for documents. It said that Grassley, as an
individual member, had “no authority to issue compulsory
process” and that the commission would continue
to comply with requests of “committees with jurisdiction
over the Commission’s activities.”

“It’s ironic that a communications agency has such
a clampdown on its own communications. The issue is
whether the FCC will operate voluntarily as an open,
transparent institution or whether it will withhold documents
from congressional review unless legally forced
to comply,” Grassley said.

Grassley had also asked the chairman whether he was
concerned about “multiple investigations” of Philip Falcone,
who heads private-equity firm Harbinger Capital
Management, which owns LightSquared.

The chairman pointed out that there have only been
reports of informal investigations (by the
the Securities & Exchange Commission),
referring to press accounts submitted by
Grassley. “Under longstanding policy,”
Genachowski wrote, “unless the applicant
has allegedly engaged in non-FCC related
misconduct so egregious as to shock the
conscience and evoke almost universal disapprobation,
the commission will consider
such non-FCC misconduct only if the alleged
misconduct has been adjudicated.”

That is according to the FCC’s character
policy for holding agency licenses. Genachowski
added that if the circumstances changed, the commission
“would take that into account “consistent with its
character policy.”

Grassley now has the option of seeking help from the
House, where Republicans hold the chairs on the relevant

The FCC granted the LightSquared waiver back in January
conditioned on LightSquared not interfering with
GPS service on adjacent band. After tests indicated there
was an interference threat, LightSquared said it would
adjust its plan to mitigate that threat, but GPS companies
and users are so far not assuaged.