LightSquared forges rural initiative amid continued criticism of network

LightSquared said it formed a new rural initiative in which it will work with sparsely populated communities to ensure the deployment of its services and help it mitigate GPS interference concerns. The announcement is another indication that the company intends to forge ahead with its wholesale LTE network despite continued concern that the network will interfere with GPS devices.

LightSquared said the rural plan, called the Empower Rural America Initiative, will be led by an advisory board that includes former Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and former Reps. George Nethercutt of Washington and Charlie Stenholm of Texas. The group will work with LightSquared on a number of initiatives, including making sure device filters and other approaches are developed that will resolve any GPS issues related to precision agriculture and other areas.

Interestingly, the initiative is similar in character to the Emergency Rapid Response Communications Team that LightSquared formed in October to help first responders and public-safety agencies deal with emergency situations via the company's satellite service from SkyTerra.

The new rural plan comes two days after LightSquared said it secured another $265 million in capital. LightSquared is building its LTE network but will not turn the network on until it receives FCC approval to do so.

Meanwhile, the Coalition to Save Our GPS, a group of GPS device manufacturers opposed to LightSquared's network plans, blasted LightSquared's efforts to address interference concerns with a new network deployment plan, which the company presented to the FCC last week.

"The utter failure of LightSquared's initial deployment plans to pass interference tests raises fundamental questions about the representations LightSquared made to the FCC," the coalition said. "The current strong indication is that whatever LightSquared told the FCC prior to January 2011 was highly inaccurate, to a degree that verges on negligence."

In other LightSquared news, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski expressing frustration about the FCC's response to his questions about the agency's approval of LightSquared's conditional waiver to offer terrestrial-only service.

In the new letter, Grassley said that the FCC intentionally ignored his request for documents from the FCC, and that the agency is essentially stonewalling his request for information about how the waiver was granted.

"While we have deep respect for Senator Grassley, we respectfully disagree with the characterization of the exchange between staff in our offices," FCC spokesman Neil Grace told FierceWireless. "As always, we remain responsive and look forward to working together on this and other issues."

For more:
- see this release
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this Grassley letter to the FCC (PDF)

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