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Keller and Heckman LLP Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. VIII Issue 51, 2011 in Review


During 2011, Congress dabbled with spectrum allocations while the FCC dealt with LightSquared, narrowbanding, mergers and other issues. Before turning our attention to the Presidential election and narrowbanding deadline that await in 2012, we take a quick look back at the highs and lows of 2011.

LightSquared Interference

The Commission granted LightSquared a conditional waiver to test a terrestrial wireless network in the L-Band, previously allocated solely for mobile satellite service. The company conducted tests during the summer 2011, and the tests caused interference to GPS users. In what would prove to be one of the most contentious proceedings at the FCC this year, the Coalition to Save our GPS and its members filed thousands of comments opposing LightSquared's proposed operations. In September, the Commission issued a Public Notice requiring LightSquared to conduct additional tests and LightSquared responded by claiming the interference was caused by GPS manufacturers ignoring government standards when developing GPS receivers. As the year winds down, the dispute continues and has spread to Capitol Hill, where a vote on two FCC nominees may be held-up until the agency explains whether it treated LightSquared too favorably by approving the conditional waiver.

Spectrum As Revenue Source

As the economy sputtered in 2011, Congress viewed wireless spectrum as a relatively easy way to generate revenue for the government and to create jobs. In September, President Obama unveiled the JOBS Act, which would allocate the 700 MHz D-Block to public safety, fund network construction through spectrum auctions and impose additional fees on licensees. In October, four lawmakers sent a letter to the President requesting a review of federal spectrum that could be auctioned to support consumer wireless broadband deployment and generate revenue for the government. In November, the House introduced its own JOBS Act that would allocate the D-Block to public safety and provide the FCC with authority to hold incentive auctions for TV Broadcast spectrum. These proposals have not yet been enacted into law.

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