LightSquared, With Zombielike Persistence, May Try to Overturn FCC Ruling

NEWS ANALYSIS: Billionaire investor Philip Falcone has hired high-profile Washington, D.C., lawyers in a last-gasp effort to build LightSquared's network. The question is whether they will try to overturn the FCC's ruling.

In a legal Hail Mary that seems unlikely to produce positive results, Philip Falcone, the billionaire investor behind the LightSquared broadband data service, has hired two of Washington's highest profile lawyers to try to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's decision not to let the company operate its network.

The FCC withdrew approval after a series of tests by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the military showed conclusively that the LightSquared data network would effectively kill GPS use in the United States.

Meanwhile, LightSquared continues to suffer losses of all types. Sprint Nextel has now withdrawn its agreement to provide tower space for LightSquared's transmitters and antennas, which leaves the company without physical infrastructure. Leap Wireless, the company that sells the Cricket brand of wireless phones and devices, has now dropped LightSquared and signed on with Clearwire for Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services. Clearwire is majority-owned by Sprint Nextel.

The lawyers representing LightSquared include Ted Olson, who represented President George W. Bush before the U.S. Supreme Court in the disputed election case, Bush v. Gore. Also representing the company is Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia has a long history of successfully fighting regulatory decisions by the federal government. Both lawyers are members of the firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Washington.

While LightSquared has hired the new lawyers, the company has not said what its plans are for these attorneys.

Both men are skilled litigators in a long list of federal court cases in which various agencies have been sued by private companies. However, LightSquared has other options as well. It could, for example, attempt to recover its losses from moving ahead, assuming the FCC would give approval to operate since approval had been given. The company could also attempt to negotiate a spectrum swap that would allow it to move forward with its planned LTE network on a frequency that wouldn't interfere with GPS.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...