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Congress

FCC Rebuffs Grassley On LightSquared

July 29, 2011

The Federal Communications Commission says it doesn't have to provide Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, with information on LightSquared's contentious bid to build a nationwide wireless network.

In the latest letter from FCC, released this week, Chairman Julius Genachowksi argues that the agency only has to comply with information requests from the leaders of congressional committees that have oversight authority for the FCC.

"I regret that some misunderstandings seem to have arisen as a result of several staff-level conversations, and thus welcome the opportunity to clarify the points that the FCC staff sought to convey and to make clear that, far from seeking to stifle congressional oversight, the agency is simply following long-standing practice consistent with Congress's own guidance..." the letter states.

But Grassley says it isn't a matter of misunderstanding so much as the FCC trying to hide something.

"The issue is whether the FCC will operate voluntarily as an open, transparent institution or whether it will withhold documents from congressional review unless legally forced to comply," Grassley said in a statement. "Refusing a legitimate request in the public interest should require more justification than 'we don't have to.'"

Grassley has gone back and forth with the FCC over concerns that LightSquared's planned network will interfere with global positioning systems. The senator has raised questions about how the plan was initially approved by the FCC.

In his last letter to the agency, sent July 5, Grassley questioned whether the FCC should be more concerned about federal probes into LightSquared investor Phillip Falcone.

Genachowski countered that the investigations are informal and that unless misconduct is "so egregious as to shock the conscious and evoke almost universal disapprobation," the agency will wait until the cases are actually concluded.

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