LightSquared plays the lawsuit card

October 6, 2011

LightSquared, the capital venture that is locked in a dispute with the GPS industry over a proposed mobile-satellite network shown to disrupt aviation navigation, “has put regulators on the spot by raising the specter of litigation,” said a senior AOPA executive this week.

“Using the ‘L’ word—for lawsuit—or suggesting it in comments to the media is a distraction. But that tactic does not change the fact that LightSquared wants to build a system that is inappropriate in that portion of the radio spectrum, as tests have repeatedly shown,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs.

LightSquared has become more embattled in recent months by a growing chorus of criticism of the conditional approval it received for its network in January. Last month, some elected officials demanded that the Federal Communications Commission justify its actions to date on the company’s network application. Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Sept. 22 to urge that the commission focus on resolving the GPS interference issues, and resist political pressure.

Petri is aviation subcommittee chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Accelerating its media campaign, the Oct. 3 comments by a company executive during a conference call with reporters set off a flurry of new media activity, with various news organizations reporting that the company might take measures to protect its “legal rights.” LightSquared did not elaborate on a legal strategy. 

In two preceding media contacts, LightSquared issued a news release Sept. 21, acknowledging “GPS interference issues” but revealing that it had signed an agreement to solve them for high-precision GPS devices. On Oct. 1, the technology-investment venture released a statement attributed to its general counsel, who accused the GPS industry of claiming “falsely” that it was “caught off guard by LightSquared’s network.”

Rudinger urged the company to face up to the facts about the proposed network’s safety risks—and realize that their proposal to utilize spectrum adjacent to GPS inappropriately is putting potentially thousands of lives at risk.

“It is regrettable and inappropriate that a LightSquared spokesman continues to cloud the issue and put regulators on the spot by raising the specter of litigation,” she said.