Legislators Introduce Satellite Communications Laws Updating Decades Old Rules

An announcement late last week from the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee said that two bipartisan bills have been introduced seeking to promote competition, innovation, and American leadership in the commercial satellite communications industry. One bill, the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act was introduced by Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and the other, the Secure Space Act, by Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.).

The laws, if adopted, would modernize Federal Communications Commission (FCC) satellite licensing rules for the first time in decades. They clarify the agency’s authority to do so under the Communications Act, foster the responsible use of space, advance national security interests, create investment and innovation incentives, and promote U.S. leadership in next-generation satellite communications networks, the press release said.

They also address space debris and licensing requirements for companies rolling out satellite-based technologies.

In a statement, Reps. Rodgers and Pallone said that the laws are essential to ensuring America’s leadership in the global industry. They commented that motivation for the laws stem from the legislators’ interest in seeing America, not China, spearhead next-generation satellite technologies.

FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington made similar remarks in a separately issued statement.

He also commented on the growing demand for “low-latency, high-bandwidth broadband connections,” noting that “[i]nnovative satellite companies now offer an unprecedented variety of services in optical surveying, precision agricultural support, and transport safety, with more companies, services and technologies emerging every day. Revising the laws is a priority, Simington said, to avoid providers getting bogged down in the regulatory processes.

The bills are nearly identical to two introduced by the same representatives in February that stagnated without action.