For one, its intriguing that the FCC Chief Economist (on p33 of the PDF) highlights “just how lucrative ATC service could be”, noting that “an entrepreneur that purchased a mobile satellite property wth 34 MHz of ATC-eligible spectrum and successfully rolled out ATC service in partnership with a CMRS incumbent could obtain a rent of $11 billion, equal to the difference between the value of the spectrum ($12 billion) and the cost of developing the required satellite system ($1 billion).”
That $12B valuation of course is the same as LightSquared’s economic consultants used, back in June 2011, to estimate that the January 2011 waiver was worth $10B to LightSquared. The documents also indicate (p10 of the PDF) that the FCC Chairman was warned in September 2009 about the “equity considerations of providing a ‘windfall’ to companies who did not acquire the licenses at auction” and even at that time “changing the ATC handset requirements” was under discussion.
However, far more interesting are the details of the discussions over the extension to the very short comment period on the waiver request in November 2010 (pp13-15 of the PDF). It is clear that the FCC had essentially already agreed the waiver with LightSquared and had “discussed [the timetable] previously”. The FCC was working to this “tight” timetable (later derailed by NTIA concerns about GPS interference) so that order could be issued on December 20, a date that was described as “critical”.
Of course (although it is not stated in the emails) the reason that this date was so critical was that (as I suspected at the time), the Commission intended to (and did) vote on net neutrality rules at the December 21, 2010 Open Meeting, which excluded wireless networks from net neutrality obligations. As a result, if the FCC had been able to announce the LightSquared waiver at that meeting, it would have been possible to say that at least one major 4G network provider had signed up to net neutrality principles of its own accord, effectively endorsing LightSquared as a competitor to the major cellular operators.