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LightSquared rebuts pay-for-play charges

The carrier denies Democrats helped it get network approvals amid GPS interference

Mobile startup LightSquared struck back against a report on Thursday that it had received preferential treatment from the Obama Administration as it sought permission to build a cellular data network that appears to hurt GPS performance.

The Daily Beast news website reported that Obama Administration officials confirmed they had asked General William Shelton, commander of the Air Force Space Command, to modify his testimony about LightSquared at a hearing held Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee. According to the article, Shelton said he felt pressure to soften his testimony against LightSquared. The report also said Shelton's prepared testimony had been leaked to LightSquared before the hearing.

The military has been sharply critical of LightSquared's plan because of test results that have shown harmful effects on GPS (Global Positioning System), a system that was built by the Defense Department and is considered critical for U.S. military operations. LightSquared plans to operate a terrestrial LTE network on frequencies that until now have been restricted to satellite services.

The report led to fresh charges that the Obama Administration helped LightSquared gain conditional approval for its network because Philip Falcone, whose Harbinger Capital Partners owns the carrier, has contributed to Democrats. On Thursday, Rep. Michael Turner, a Republican on the Armed Services Committee, reportedly said he is seeking an investigation of the administration's treatment of LightSquared.

LightSquared said the record shows it hasn't received favors.

"Any suggestion that LightSquared has run roughshod over the regulatory process is contradicted by the reality of eight long years spent gaining approvals," LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said in a prepared statement. The key approvals for its project were made during the Republican administration of George W. Bush, Ahuja said. Further evidence is that the government asked for more tests of LightSquared's technology just this week, and that the company wasn't allowed to speak in its own defense at the Armed Services hearing, he said.

"It's time Washington politicians stop using LightSquared as a pinata," Ahuja said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is [email protected]


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