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LightSquared: Lights out

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Friday, Feb. 17, 2012

FCC rejection of a planned satellite/wireless network that interferes with GPS frequencies is welcome recognition that technological realities trump crony capitalism.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday moved toward revoking a waiver that required LightSquared to show the interference problem could be solved. The Hill's Hillicon Valley blog reports the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration told the FCC "there are no mitigation strategies that ... solve the interference issues ... ."

That's good news for GPS-reliant commercial aviation safety and military operations -- and bad news for big Obama donors backing LightSquared and for the president, who invested $50,000 in 2005.

Hedge fund operator Phil Falcone put $2 billion-plus into LightSquared. A major Obama donor, he now says he's a Republican who didn't try to influence the FCC process.

Yet an Air Force Space Command general and the national GPS office director have said the White House pressured them to play down LightSquared concerns before Congress. (And that aspect of this case still requires a full investigation.)

Kudos to the FCC for acknowledging that neither LightSquared nor political pressure could surmount insoluble technological obstacles -- and for protecting crucial GPS functionality.

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