Tech Tuesday

Regulators Move to Pull the Plug on LightSquared

Nothing like timing a blog ahead of the news, GPS interference fears may have killed new broadband effort.

Note: Due to key news on LightSquared, this blog has been updated with the news.

Yesterday, I posted a Tech Tuesday noting that officials were still wrangling about LightSquared and I promised to keep you updated on what's happening. Well late yesterday, the U.S. Commerce Departmnt sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission noting that there was "no practical way to mitigate the potential interference at this time."

That must have been enough for the FCC, because soon after that the agency issued a statement saying it planned to reject LightSquared's application to build its network because of those GPS concerns. In fact, the FCC has stated it plans to revoke the conditional approval it gave the company more than a year ago.

The FCC move is subject to public comment and agency commissioners could overturn the decision, given the line-up of federal agencies expressing concern over the land-based tower network, chances aren't good for LightSquared.

There are financial implications for the company that owns LightSquared, the Wall Street Journal reports that Philip Falcone, the hedge-fund manager who has pumped billions into the venture, took at significant write-down last year on the investment. And Falcone's Harbinger Investments has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

LightSquared has alleged bias in the moves by some government agencies in investigation GPS interference claims. However, the range of agencies asking questions ranges from the Department of Defense to the Federal Aviation Administration.

While we're not ready to stick a fork in LightSquared, Tuesday's actions don't offer much hope for the system. And other land-based systems that might use satellite spectrum - including a proposal from Dish Network may be impacted as well.

For farmers and others worried about their GPS systems, my conclusions yesterday that you were fine for 2012 stand. With this announcement, the LightSquared system may never raise a single tower.

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