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FCC Approves Rules for Deployment of Satellites, Allocates Six Megahertz of Low-Band Spectrum to Broadband

Elijah Labby

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Photo of satellite earth station by Mailer Diablo used with permission

May 13, 2020 — The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday adopted new rules for the deployment of satellites.

The action, at the agency’s May meeting – its second monthly meeting conducted remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic –comes at a time of increased pressure by military officials to roll back their support for satellite broadband companies like Ligado, whom officials fear could interfere with GPS.

The FCC called such concerns "baseless." Notwithstanding, Wednesday’s action fulfills a pledge to provide stringent regulations on the technology.

The agency has also expanded the frequency bands that satellite earth stations in motion can access.

Additionally, the FCC approved $8.36 million in funding for telehealth services to 33 healthcare providers across the country. The funding will go toward virtual doctor visits, treating patients with substance abuse and mental health issues, home monitoring devices and other applications.

The FCC also enacted regulatory fees for foreign-licensed space stations that could access the U.S. market. Formerly, such stations could access the market without paying the regulatory fees that U.S. licensed commercial space stations had to pay.

Finally, the FCC allocated a six megahertz portion of the 900 MegaHertz (MHz) spectrum band for broadband.

The FCC intended for the segment to "support the growing technological needs of our nation's industries, while reserving the remaining four megahertz of the band for narrowband operations."

The remaining four megahertz of spectrum in the radiofrequency vicinity will be saved for operations along the narrowband spectrum.

The agency said it would partially unfreeze the 900 MHz application and allow current licenses to apply to relocate their narrowband operations in order to facilitate transition.

The FCC’s hope is that freeing up spectrum will allow new technologies dependent on that range of spectrum to thrive as well as meet the needs of Americans.

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