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FCC moves to speed satellite application processing

The FCC took another step to update its processing of satellite and earth station licenses on Wednesday. The agency began a proceeding to speed up how it reviews those applications saying it needs to do so after receiving in recent years what it calls “an unprecedented” number of satellite applications proposing innovative, new systems and services.

Before satellite and earth station applications are accepted for filing and placed on public notice, they are reviewed for completeness and compliance with Commission rules. Through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC will seek comment on allowing licensees to apply for more than one unbuilt non-geostationary satellite system in a frequency band. It will ask how the Commission should handle inconsistencies and omissions in applications – perhaps helping applicants and/or quickly dismissing the applications so they can be re-filed.

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks listed the innovations being submitted for review, including, “interoperable use antennas, beaming satellite conductivity to your cell phone, democratizing access by selling space infrastructure as a service. Needless to say, our existing rules weren’t built with all of this in mind.”

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said: “The new space age needs new rules.” That’s why she launched an effort last month to create a new Space Bureau within the agency, to better use the FCC’s resources on the increased space-related workload. She also proposed increasing the staffing – by 38 percent – of its satellite policy team. Rosenworcel said these efforts are already yielding results, noting: “In the past six months, we have reduced our earth station application backlog by more than twenty percent.”

In addition to the process improvements under the “Space Innovation” agenda, the FCC is studying communications issues involved in new space activities like satellite refueling and in-orbit repair and mitigating the risks of orbital debris by expediting the removal of out-of-service satellites, Inside Towers reported. It’s looking to free up more spectrum in the 17 GHz band to support the growing demand for space-based services and moving forward on identifying spectrum for commercial space launches. Inside Towers

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