FCC Establishes Space Agency to Regulate Satellite Industry

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the creation of a new Space Bureau slated to support the needs of the growing satellite industry, promote long-term technical capacity at the FCC, and help it navigate global communications policy.

The move is accompanied by a reorganization of the International Bureau into an Office of International Affairs . The action is the latest initiative in the FCC’s Space Innovation agenda, and follows the agency’s Communications Marketplace Report highlighting the boom in low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations used for telecommunications.

The agency said that the organizational changes should strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency’s space agenda, noting that the change will also mean eliminating the current International Bureau and incorporating that team into the new bureau and office. With the addition, the FCC is poised to speed up the regulatory review processes, increase the size of its satellite division by 38%, develop new opportunities for competition in the delivery of satellite broadband services, and modernize spectrum policy to more ably meet the needs of next generation Space Age technology.

Specifically, the Space Bureau will handle policy and licensing matters related to satellite communications and other in-space activities under the FCC’s jurisdiction. The Office of International Affairs will cover issues involving foreign and international regulatory authorities in addition to international telecommunications and submarine cable licensing.

“The satellite industry is growing at a record pace, but here on the ground our regulatory frameworks for licensing have not kept up. We’re working to change that. Today, we are moving forward with our plan to prepare for what comes next,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “A new Space Bureau at the FCC will ensure that the agency’s resources are appropriately aligned to fulfill its statutory obligations, improve its coordination across the federal government, and support the 21st century satellite industry. I also thank my fellow Commissioners for their support.”