Advanced Television

FCC plans revamped Space Bureau

November 3, 2022

By Colin Mann

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has unveiled a plan to reorganise the agency better to support the needs of the growing satellite industry, promote long-term technical capacity at the FCC, and navigate 21st global communications policy.

Under this plan, Chairwoman Rosenworcel will work to reorganise the FCC’s International Bureau into a new Space Bureau and a standalone Office of International Affairs. These changes will help ensure that the FCC’s resources are better aligned so that the agency can continue to fulfil its statutory obligations and keep pace with the rapidly changing realities of the satellite industry and global communications policy.

“The satellite industry is growing at a record pace, but here on the ground our regulatory frameworks for licensing them have not kept up,” admitted Rosenworcel. “Over the past two years the agency has received applications for 64,000 new satellites. In addition, we are seeing new commercial models, new players, and new technologies coming together to pioneer a wide-range of new satellite services and space-based activities that need access to wireless airwaves. Today, I announced a plan to build on this success and prepare for what comes next. A new Space Bureau at the FCC will ensure that the agency’s resources are appropriately aligned to fulfil its statutory obligations, improve its coordination across the federal government, and support the 21st century satellite industry.”

The Commission licenses radio frequency uses by satellites and ensures that space systems reviewed by the agency have sufficient plans to mitigate orbital debris under the authority of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. By establishing a stand-alone Space Bureau the agency aims better to fulfil its statutory obligations and elevate the significance of satellite programmes and policy within the agency to a level that reflects the importance of the emerging space economy. By separating satellite policy from the International Bureau, the agency acknowledges the role of satellite communications in advancing domestic communications policy and achieving US broadband goals.

Lastly, the goal of establishing a stand-alone Office of International Affairs will allow relevant experts to focus specifically on matters of international communications regulation and licensing as we enter a new era of global communications policy. Additionally, this structure emulates the successful models of offices such as Office of Engineering and Technology, and Office of General Counsel that allows for consistent expertise to be leveraged across all the Bureaus with a nexus to international affairs.

Jennifer A. Manner, SVP, Regulatory Affairs, EchoStar/Hughes, said: “We applaud the FCC for this much needed reform and introduction of the Space Bureau and Office of International Affairs to at once improve the US regulatory process while helping advance US interests on important satellite and other space issues internationally.”

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