Do Politics Trump Technology at the FCC?


The FCC incorrectly connected the horizontal antenna when they updated the seal in their conference room last year. Despite having the error brought to their attention last year, they have not corrected the wiring error.

LightSquared, the company that sought to re-purpose their satellite spectrum adjacent to GPS to a terrestrial wireless network appears to have suffered a fatal blow to their plans. Matthew Boyle at the Daily Caller describes the politics behind LightSquared’s maneuverings as the FCC’s Solyndra. Ars Technica has a good summary of the technical reasons why LightSquared failed. But I was struck by the fact that the FCC still has not corrected a  technical flaw in their logo.

Look closely at the FCC seal behind the commissioner in the Daily Caller photo. One of the three horizontal antenna wires has two connections. Another has none. Amazingly, the FCC has known about this issue with their seal for nearly a year now. Spectrum guru Michael Marcus sent broke the story last April, reporting how broadcast consultant Dane Eriksen  advised them of the mistake and asked them to correct it. As Marcus notes:

The seal in the Commission Meeting Room may not bother lawyers, but drives engineers crazy and may be a symbol of the state of technical things at FCC. 

The technically flawed seal is an apt metaphor of politics trumping technology at the FCC. Fortunately in the LightSquared case, the GPS community was able to muster enough political push-back to keep LightSquared from causing substantial interference to the existing community of GPS users. Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.

Update: I see the Daily Caller also picked up on the FCC’s seal problem last year.

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