Responding to an FCC rulemaking document that envisions sweeping changes to satellite licensing policies contained in Part 25 of the FCC’s rules, key players throughout the U.S. and global satellite industries voiced support for proposed FCC rule changes that would enable satellite firms to commence the registration process with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) before filing license applications with the FCC.
Comments were due late last week on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that was issued in September and that seeks to streamline or eliminate many of the rules that pertain to satellite applicants and licensees. In addition to providing applicants with the right to pre-register orbital slots and frequencies with the ITU, the NPRM, among other things, would also (1) eliminate certain milestone requirements and simplify the process for demonstrating compliance with others, (2) revise two-degree orbital spacing requirements to better accommodate use of small antennas, and (3) expand options for streamlined processing of routine earth station applications.
In a joint submission, SES Americom and New Skies Satellite B.V. agreed that the FCC should allow applicants “to forward materials to the ITU before a full-scale satellite application is on file and publicly available” at the FCC. According to SES and New Skies, the proposed rule change “will address the ‘claim-jumping’ problem that can occur when a party becomes aware through a Commission license application of a proposed network and has the opportunity to gain priority over the U.S. by pursuing an ITU filing for the same frequencies and location through another administration.” Similarly, EchoStar and Hughes Network Systems advised the FCC that operators should be allowed “to submit an Advanced Publication Information filing at the [ITU] before submitting an application with the Commission.” Intelsat also affirmed its support for permitting prospective satellite licensees to submit advanced publication and coordination filings “to the Commission for transmission to the ITU in advance of filing their FCC satellite applications.”
While commenters generally agreed on the issue of ITU registration, there were differences in opinion with respect to orbital spacing requirements. As SES and New Skies urged the FCC to retain its two-degree spacing policy with updates “to align it more closely with current operational realities,” Intelsat argued that the two-degree rule should be eliminated altogether. The Satellite Industry Association, meanwhile, opposed “any proposals for increasing bond amounts above current levels,” warning that such a step “would create an uncertain regulatory environment that could deter the investments needed to proceed with construction.”