Satellite Approvals Could Be Significantly Modernized Under 2 New Bills
The bills targeting satellite licensing at the FCC are being structured in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Two pieces of draft legislation issued Feb. 11 could significantly change the way the Federal Communications Commission deals with satellite licensing and approvals while addressing evolving space-based national security concerns.
One of the two draft bills, the Secure Space Act of 2022, would “prohibit the FCC from granting a license” for any non-geostationary orbit satellite system to any company or entity whose “covered communications equipment or service” pose a national security risk. The legislation does not call out specific companies, but indirectly targets Chinese telecoms like Huawei whose products and services have previously come under government scrutiny.
The second piece of legislation currently in the works under the House Energy and Commerce Committee is the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act. The draft bill intends to speed up the FCC permitting process for satellites or satellite constellations by placing time limits on determinations and reducing the time to modify existing licenses. In certain circumstances, companies could seek “expedited treatment” and be guaranteed a decision on whether to modify a license within 90 days.
The draft bill also requires the FCC to consider in its reviews any satellite or satellite constellation’s potential to collide with other orbiting vessels or create space debris. Multiple federal agencies are engaged in ways to reduce or deal with “space junk,” and the draft legislation would be forced to consider, for example, a satellite’s end-of-life disposal and “the orbital parameters within which” it would be maintained. If passed, the draft legislation would require the FCC to issue future licensing rules regarding space safety and orbital debris requirements.
In a joint statement, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said the draft legislation promotes competition for American companies while dealing with threats abroad.
“As leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we must streamline our regulatory processes to usher in a new era of American innovation and investment in this growing sector, particularly as our economic competitors like China race to dominate this industry, and must ensure our laws and regulations fully protect the public,” the lawmakers said. “American companies are at the forefront of developing and deploying broadband and other advanced communications services using satellite technologies, which is revolutionizing the communications marketplace as we know it.”