UPDATE The FCC voted this week to create a Space Bureau to better support the growing space economy and evolving global telecom market. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed the change last November.
At the time, she said the growth of satellite broadband internet plays a big part in the reorganization. Ninety-eight percent of all satellite launches in 2021 were deployed into low-earth orbit to provide internet connectivity on earth, according to the agency.
“The satellite industry is growing at a record pace, but here on the ground our regulatory frameworks for licensing have not kept up,” said Rosenworcel. “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.”
The Space Bureau will handle policy and licensing matters related to satellite communications and other in-space activities under the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Commission’s space-related work has grown a lot. In November, agency personnel were reviewing 64,000 applications for new satellites. It’s also seen an eight-fold increase in applications for fixed satellite service gateway earth stations, as well as more applications for space tugs that deploy other satellites and space antenna farms for communication relays.
The Commissioners adopted an order approving the planned reorganization that also eliminates the International Bureau and changes that into an Office of International Affairs. The bureau has always handled space-related communications licensing in addition to international work. With the changes, that office will handle issues involving foreign and international regulatory authorities as well as international telecommunications and submarine cable licensing.
The FCC will seek Congressional approval of the changes.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief