Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was feeling none too thankful Wednesday after the FCC put documents about its LightSquard waiver online.
The FCC created a Web site to host the documents to honor various FOIA requests from private parties. The FCC did not provide the information directly to Grassley, and a source familiar with the FOIA requests said the FCC had not received one from Grassley's office.
Grassley has for months been seeking information from the agency on the waiver it issued the company to launch a 4G wholesale terrestrial wireless broadband network using spectrum reserved for satellite. But he was not satisfied with the FCC's response-a source said the FCC gave him a heads-up that the info was online. Grassley's disaffection could translate to delays in confirming new FCC commissioners.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had respectfully declined to provide info per the Grassley request, saying that the commission only provided such info at the request of chairmen of the relevant oversight committee. Grassley was unhappy with that answer has threatened to hold up the nominations of two potential new FCC commissioners unless the FCC was more forthcoming, and had had meetings with the chairman of one of those relevant committees, Jay Rockefeller (D-VA) about what he could do to get the FCC to be more responsive.
The two nominees are Jessica Rosenworcel, a top communications advisor to Rockefeller, and former FCC lawyer Ajit Pai. Rockefeller has scheduled a confirmation hearing on the pair next week.
Grassley's threat to hold up a Senate vote on those nominations appeared to still be on the table Wednesday, with Grassley indicating the info the FCC provided was insufficient.
"This holiday week document dump and the fact that these documents are already publicly available is a continuation of the FCC's pattern of hiding any actual information regarding the LightSquared waiver," he said in a statement. "Whether it's posting a bunch of old-news documents the day before Thanksgiving, or telling 99.6 percent of elected members Congress that the agency doesn't have to be responsive to oversight, this is an agency with a very serious transparency problem. The FCC needs to stop playing games and make itself accountable to Congress, the media, and the American people."
Grassley is concerned that the White House may have pushed for the waiver as a way to spur new wireless broadband service, which is one of the President's national priorities. If so, that would be despite the opposition to the service coming from the Department of Defense, FAA and others concerned about interference with GPS. LightSquared has said there is a solution and it is working on it. Meanwhile, the FCC has put its approval of the service, which was always conditional, on hold until it does more testing and it is satisfied the network will not interfere with navigation, weather prediction, and defense applications. Not interfering with the GPS band, which is adjacent to LightSquared's spectrum allocation, was one of the conditions in that conditional waiver.