FCC Proposes Part 25 Rule Changes to Ease Regulatory Burden on Satellite Operations

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By Brandon Ross

Sept. 30 — New rules are needed to ease the application process and relax rules for the operation of satellites, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

During the agency's Sept. 30 open meeting, the FCC unanimously voted to advance a further notice of proposed rulemaking that would change 48 satellite rules.

“Today's Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes changes to increase satellite operational flexibility, eliminate outdated information requirements and update rules to better accommodate evolving technology,” the FCC said in a news release announcing the new proposals.

The changes are aimed at lowering regulatory compliance costs on companies and would trigger investment, senior Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said during the meeting.

The proposals are part of the agency's Report on FCC Process Reform, issued earlier this year.

The FCC amended 150 other Part 25 rules in 2013, and the new proposed changes by the FCC's International Bureau are a continuing effort to reevaluate FCC's Part 25 rules, FCC staff and commissioners said at the meeting.

The proposals would, among other things, allow applicants for satellite station licenses to submit applications early to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); simplify milestone requirements for both pre- and post-application licensees; revise the two-degree spacing rule; and make a number of changes to the application process.

Abuses Under Current Rules.

Current rules require companies to devise their plans for satellite operations to allow competitors to deny the desired area of usage from a legitimate applicant when the incumbent operator has no true intentions of utilizing the area, Clyburn said.

Also, applicants currently must divulge a number of technical specifics in filing an application—which requires the input of two agencies as companies need FCC approval before they obtain ITU approval.

“This enables competitors to monitor the Commission's space station applications and submit a new filing (or modify an existing one) at the ITU before the U.S. has submitted anything,” Clyburn's written statement said. “Such ‘claim jumping' gives foreign operators the ability tosecure ITU priority over their U.S.-licensed counterparts.”

“It appears that the U.S. is the only administration that imposes such a restriction on ITU filings, placing our satellite companies at a competitive disadvantage,” Clyburn said.

The newly proposed rules would prevent these practices from continuing, she said.

Industry Applauds Proposals.

In a Sept. 30 press release following the FCC meeting, the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) applauded the FCC's efforts and said the proposed rules would decrease regulatory burdens.

“Given the sustained commitment of the global satellite industry to invest in new technology, and the tens of billions of dollars required to do so, this streamlining action by the Commission is as important as it is timely,” SIA acting President Sam Black said in the release.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Ross in Washington at bross@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com