The Federal Communications Commission will turn over more documents related to its grant of a waiver to LightSquared for a national wholesale wireless broadband network. The commission is in the process of rescinding that waiver over GPS interference issues.
"[T]he FCC has indicated we can expect additional documents in the coming weeks," said an Energy & Commerce Committee staffer. The FCC has already turned over some 13,000 pages.
Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and other top committee Republicans asked for the documents back in February, saying there were many unanswered questions about how the waiver was granted, including why the FCC's conditional waiver was granted on delegated authority, without a full commission vote; why the FCC provided only a 20 day comment/reply comment cycle on the waiver; why the waiver also included a provision preventing Verizon and AT&T from being LightSquared customers (the FCC was trying to promote price and service competition to those largest carriers), when the FCC realized that there would be GPS interference from LightSquared's terrestrial broadcasts in its satellite spectrum allocation and more.
The document request has wider implications. Sen Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has a hold on two nominees for open commission seats and has refused to lift it until he gets access to FCC documents. The FCC would not give the documents to Grassley because he is not the chair of a ranking committee, while Upton is. Upton has shared the first round of documents with Grassley.
A Grassley aide told Multichannel News that those 13,000 pages were all previously released to others under FOIA requests and the hold stands until he gets more. A second FCC document drop at least provides some hope that the hold might ultimately be lifted. Until then, said the aide speaking on background, "There's nothing new here. Sen. Grassley still wants to receive internal documents before lifting his hold on the nominees."
Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel are the Republican and Democratic nominees, respectively, to the vacant seats that have left the FCC at only three commissioners. Republican Meredith Attwell Baker exited to join Comcast last spring, while Democrat Michael Copps retired at the end of December.
Both Pai and Rosenworcel sailed through their nomination hearings with bipartisan shout-outs and are expected to be confirmed by the full Senate when/if the hold is lifted, which Grassley has signaled will only happen when he gets more internal documents about how the FCC made the decision to grant the waiver.