Out in Front: A Pawn in Their Game

August 1, 2011  - By

Maybe we got played. But we put up a good fight. We really had no option to do anything but fight. So we did, and we’re still fighting the LightSquared attack on the GPS signal. It’s not over yet, not by a long shot.

Suspicions now creep in that the attack may have been a feint, that the company never really intended to do what it threatened: broadcast a very powerful signal from ground towers, on a frequency immediately adjacent to the GPS signal. LightSquared had its eye on another prize instead.

Here’s what I have heard, independently from two people who follow the telecommunications industry for a living. Party number one:

“These guys have b..ls.

Off the record, their business plan is a 100 percent swap.

So the more GPS gets irritated by their b..ls..t and says get out of the L-band, the more LS like it.

Tell your friends to recommend that LS use their other [lower] spectrum.

Now that’s what they don’t want.

The trade is 40 MHz of new terrestrial spectrum.”

Party number two, a Wall Street contact, said the same, implying a direct interaction with top-level LightSquared personnel as its source.

Somewhere in the very early going, back in December of last year, I read a similar speculation, but gave it little credence because it seemed too good to be true. I’m still wary.

But such deceit seems consistent with the sly and manipulative behavior that LightSquared has evidenced to date, on top of the near-total lack of any engineering or scientific case for its power play on spectrum. Time and again, company spokespersons made their case on legalistic and rule-making grounds, abetted by no less a person than the FCC chair. Any technical language or justification they used was transparently, almost laughably, unfounded.

That’s the way government works, unfortunately. The laws of man are held above the laws of physics — even when it comes to rewriting the previous laws of man, which, it turns out, had some logic. The MSS spectrum, about which all this furor has raged, turns out to stand for Mobile Satellite Service spectrum. If the LightSquared signal were held to its license, it would broadcast from satellites, with a small provision for ancillary ground broadcast.

Even with the Technical Working Group’s strong repudiation of both the LightSquared proposal and the FCC’s conditional waiver, and the stern-jawed joint letter from the Departments of Defense and Transportation, we are far from safe. I have seen too many government boards — local, state, and federal — fly in the face of evidence, to believe that facts rule.

It ain’t over till the statuesque lady sings.

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