Header graphic for print
Global Media and Communications Watch The International Legal Blog for the Tech, Media and Telecoms Industry
Posted in Policy & Regulation Ari FitzgeraldSarah K. Leggin

2018: A Space Odyssey – FCC and NASA Herald New Era of Market Friendly Space Policies

On November 8, 2018, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai highlighted the agency’s jam-packed agenda on space and satellite regulation at the Hudson Institute’s “Space 2.0” event in Washington, D.C. In his remarks, he discussed the FCC’s renewed focus on space and satellite policy, and its efforts to promote innovative, commercial technologies through a market-based approach. Thomas E. Cremins, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Strategy and Plans, gave opening remarks and joined Chairman Pai to highlight the interagency cooperation to promote investment and continue U.S. leadership in space. Former FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for the Economics of the Internet, moderated the panel discussion.

Chairman Pai’s opening remarks covered the FCC’s proposed approaches to promoting commercial space innovation, like streamlining the Part 25 rules to expedite application processing for low-earth orbit (LEO) and other applications. Chairman Pai highlighted the many LEO applications before the FCC, which, if granted, will enable fleets of satellites to expand Internet access and offer innovative applications like remote earth imaging, weather monitoring, and next-generation GPS to name a few.  The FCC has granted licenses to nine applicants and plans to vote on six more pending applications, including four at this week’s Open Meeting on November 15.  At the meeting the FCC will also consider items regarding access to the Galileo satellite, orbital debris mitigation, and facilitating satellite earth stations in motion.

During the Question & Answer session, the panel addressed growing concerns about orbital debris, spectrum use, and innovation in the current regulatory environment. Chairman Pai highlighted the FCC’s flexible spectrum policy to promote dynamic use.  He explained the FCC’s long-term vision sees AI and machine learning technologies as advancing spectrum policy and automation.  Chairman Pai also noted the FCC’s revitalization of the Section 7 rules, which require the FCC to rule on applications within one year.  Citing Li-Fi (an optical transmission alternative to Wi-Fi) as an example, Chairman Pai said the agency plans to act on items regarding new technologies or applications that have been forgotten for years.  With its revitalized focus on space technologies, the FCC has positioned itself to serve as a launch pad for the future of space policy.

For more information, please contact Ari Fitzgerald and Sarah Leggin.