LightSquared almost tripled spending on U.S. lobbying as the telecommunications company backed by billionaire Philip Falcone fought to keep regulators from killing its planned nationwide wireless network.
By TODD SHIELDS and JONATHAN D. SALANT
LightSquared spent $1 million on lobbyists in the first quarter of 2012, compared with $350,000 in the same period last year, according to quarterly disclosure reports filed this month with the Senate.
Its lobbyists included former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, D, and former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., according to the disclosure reports.
LightSquared is struggling to survive since the Federal Communications Commission in February proposed withdrawing permits, which would block the company’s plans for high-speed wireless data service covering as many as 260 million people.
Sprint Nextel said on March 16 it canceled an agreement to help build LightSquared’s network, adding to concern about the venture’s viability and the fate of Falcone’s $3 billion investment in the business through his Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund. Had LightSquared won FCC approval, its partnership with Sprint held the potential for vastly broadening the Overland Park carrier’s coverage area and providing the cell phone service company with billions in revenue.
The FCC made its proposal after President Obama’s administration found the service would disrupt aircraft navigation and other gear based on global-positioning systems technology.
Chief Executive Officer Sanjiv Ahuja has since resigned and the company, based in Reston, Va., has said it was cutting 45 percent of its 330-person workforce.
Early this month Falcone said he may consider voluntary bankruptcy to fend off creditors and keep control. Bondholders include Carl Icahn, David Tepper and Andrew Beal.
LightSquared doesn’t comment on its lobbying expenditures, Terry Neal, a spokesman, said Monday.
At issue is whether LightSquared may operate a network of ground-based towers over airwaves previously reserved mainly for satellites.
Users and makers of global-positioning system gear say the network would cause interference. LightSquared says the GPS industry has produced defective equipment that improperly captures its signals.
Trimble Navigation, a GPS maker opposed to LightSquared’s plans, increased its first-quarter spending by 20 percent, to $240,000, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to filings at the U.S. House.
LightSquared made a $56.3 million payment on Friday to Britain’s Inmarsat in a spectrum-cooperation accord and was granted an extension on further installments, gaining more time to win approval from U.S. regulators.
LightSquared executives met with FCC officials April 17 and presented documents that said withdrawing the service’s permits would “set a disastrous precedent” and make it harder to assign airwaves for use by mobile Internet companies, according to a filing by the company. Testing for interference was faulty, according to LightSquared’s presentation.