Bipartisan Space and Satellite Bills Reintroduced to Secure America’s Interests

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The bills aim to promote competition, innovation, security and leadership in the commercial satellite industry by modifying FCC licensing rules and authority.

House Energy and Commerce leaders reintroduced the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act and the Secure Space Act in an effort to clarify the Federal Communications Commission’s authority in regards to satellite licensing. 

The bills—originally introduced in the prior Congress—address the Federal Communications Commission’s satellite licensing authorities to protect American interests. The legislation was introduced by House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy Rodgers, R-Wash., and Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and is characterized as the “first major effort to modernize the FCC satellite licensing rules in decades,” according to the announcement on Monday.

The Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act clarifies the FCC’s authorities under the Communications Act in an effort to promote the responsible use of space, encourage investment and innovation as well as advance U.S. leadership in next-generation satellite communications networks. 

According to the announcement, FCC licensing bottlenecks are delaying the rollout of satellite constellations, in part because of the scale and number of proposed non-geostationary constellations, which have strained the agency’s resources and resulted in delays for operators. The act will reform the FCC’s licensing process and give greater direction to said process by lessening unnecessary and outdated requirements and establishing performance requirements. The act will also incentivize innovation and investment in the technology, by encouraging operators to get licenses in the U.S. and streamlining the process for operators to innovate or adjust their satellite constellations to improve their competitiveness.

The Secure Space Act modifies the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act by barring the FCC from issuing satellite licenses or other related authorizations to “untrusted actors” as described in the act’s framework. 

“America must keep pace with the rapidly evolving satellite communications industry and ensure the United States is leading the way in next-generation satellite technologies,” Rogers and Pallone said in a statement. “Satellites can connect people in hard-to-reach areas with high-speed internet service, provide more competitive choice in the market and boost everyday services in the transportation and emergency communications sectors. Together the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act and the Secure Space Act will unleash American innovation, streamline our regulatory processes, preserve U.S. technological leadership and protect our networks from untrusted actors.”