LightSquared's Rural Roundup

Well, looky here, seems like little ol' LightSquared went up the country and banded together a rural posse.

Yessir, the 4G young'un is looking for more friends in its battle to launch its network against the protests of the GPS industry and various politicians and government groups. So, the Reston, Va.-based operator is forming the "Empower Rural America Initiative," a group led by an advisory board including former Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and former Reps. George Nethercutt of Washington and Charlie Stenholm of Texas. (See LightSquared Forms Rural Initiative.)

LightSquared says it has formed the group to ensure its coexistence with GPS technology, although part of the agenda also appears to be promoting the necessity of more wireless broadband in the boondocks.

"There is an overwhelming need for reliable wireless broadband for public safety, education, healthcare and economic development in rural America. We can have a robust, accurate GPS network and also create a substantial new resource for rural America in the form of a wireless network that reaches areas that still don't have broadband access," former Senator Dorgan says in the release.

Among the aims laid out as part of the group's formation:

  • Work with rural communities on the deployment of the LightSquared national satellite broadband service
  • Work with LightSquared and other parties to make sure device filters and other approaches are developed that will resolve any GPS issues related to precision agriculture tracking and other areas
  • Address public safety concerns by making satellite communications services available to people in rural areas in the event of a disaster
  • Help close the broadband adoption gap in rural America
Rural carriers that want to use LightSquared's wholesale network when it is available have already spoken up for the 4G venture, arguing that it offers more than just a purty cell site.

Cellular South , SI Wireless and others wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the middle of June, arguing that the network has to happen in order to enable widespread rural broadband. (See LightSquared: Waiting on the GPS Word and Avnet Opens Another SAN Center.)

These appeals, of course, go right to the heart of the FCC's stated aims for the National Broadband Plan and the Obama administration's promise earlier in 2011 to "deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans" within five years. (See The Mobile State of the Union and FCC Proposes 300MHz More Spectrum by 2015.)

How much muscle the group can align against a GPS lobby that wants the FCC to find different spectrum altogether for LightSquared, however, remains to be seen. Late in June, a U.S. House of Representatives Committee passed a measure blocking the FCC from using funding to allow LightSquared to move forward with its plan until the agency resolved concerns about potential harmful interference to GPS. LightSquared has tried to allay such fears by proposing to move its deployment down the L-Band. (See LightSquared Grabs $265M, Gets Ready to Deploy Network and LightSquared Spends $100M on Proposed GPS Fix.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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