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FCC Empowers Deployment of Next-Generation Satellites by Adopting New Licensing Framework



FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

November 20, 2020 — During the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Commission Meeting on Wednesday, members of the agency voted to adopt two changes supporting the deployment of satellite-based broadband services, attempting to empower next-generation satellites to help bridge the digital divide.

The agency adopted a new framework to streamline satellite licensing processes and approved a rulemaking to allow geostationary satellite downlink operations in the 17 GigaHertz band.

“Consumers stand to benefit from expanded use of the 17.3–17.8 GigaHertz band and the routine processing of applications for licenses,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“The satellite industry is expected to continue growing at a record-setting pace, and the commission’s proposed changes will help operators to hit the ground running with greater spectrum flexibility and a streamlined licensing process, that is focused on getting Americans connected at greater speeds and lower costs.”

Under previous rules, the FCC was required to issue separate licenses for each of the earth stations and space stations, relaying signals to one another, within a satellite system.

However, with the adoption of the agency’s new, unified licensing framework, space stations and earth stations in a single satellite system will be able to be authorized under a sole license.

“Today, we continue our efforts to streamline rules by harmonizing the licensing process for many classes of satellite space stations and earth stations,” said Pai. “These changes will end the need to make unnecessary or duplicate filings with the Commission, getting rid of some of the revelatory red tape standing in the way of satellite-based services.”

The licensing framework promises to eliminate redundancies, accelerate the deployment of new earth stations, and in turn, fast-track the availability of services to the public.

According to Pai, the framework was necessary, as the technology backing next-generation, low earth orbit satellites is wholly different than the tech utilized by traditional, geostationary satellites.

“We created the new regulatory framework for small satellites, in order to encourage space-based communications startups,” said Pai. “There is no reason why a satellite the size of a shoebox with the life expectancy of a guinea pig should be regulated the same way as a satellite the size of a school bus, that will stay in orbit for centuries.”

The FCC also adopted a rulemaking which allows geostationary satellite downlink operations in the 17 GigaHertz band. According to Commissioners, permitting such operations will both increase efficient use of the band and provide additional downlink capacity for new, high-throughput satellites.

Pai acknowledged the adverse effect the increased deployment of low earth orbit technology may have on the environment, during Wednesday’s meeting, saying the agency “recognizes the need to protect against the potential hazards posed by the increasingly populated low earth orbit environment.”

According to Pai, the FCC is attempting to alleviate environmental risks by adopting robust rules to mitigate orbital debris. The agency further sought comments on ways to ensure they are being responsible stewards of the extraterrestrial environment, earlier this year.

Former Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband. She is now Associate Broadband Researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Network Initiative.


Cable Group NCTA Says Deny Exclusive Multitenant Access, But Not Wiring, Agreements

NCTA said the FCC should deny exclusive access to these buildings, but not exclusive wiring agreements.



Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – The internet and television association NCTA is suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission deny all broadband providers exclusive access to multitenant buildings, but to continue allowing exclusive wiring agreements.

On Tuesday, the FCC opened a new round of comments into its examination of competitive broadband options for residents of apartments, multi-tenant and office buildings.

In a Tuesday ex parte notice to the commission, which follows a formal meeting with agency staff on September 2, the NCTA said the record shows that deployment, competition, and consumer choice in multiple tenant environments “are strong,” and that the FCC can “promote even greater deployment and competition by prohibiting not just cable operators, other covered [multiple video programming distributors], and telecommunications carriers, but all broadband providers from entering into MTE exclusive access agreements.

The organization, whose member companies include Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, also said it should continue to allow providers to enter into exclusive wiring agreements with MTE owners. Wiring just means that the provider can lay down its cables, like fiber, to connect residents.

“Exclusive wiring agreements do not deny new entrants access to MTEs. Rather, exclusive wiring agreements are pro-competitive and help ensure that state-of-the-art wiring will be deployed in MTEs to the benefit of consumers.”

The NCTA also told the FCC that there would be technical problems with simultaneous sharing of building wires by different providers and vouched for exclusive marketing arrangements, according to the notice.

The FCC’s new round of comments comes after a bill, introduced on July 30 by Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-New York, outlined plans to address exclusivity agreements between residential units and service providers, which sees providers lock out other carriers from buildings and leaving residents with only one option for internet.

Reached for comment on the filing, a spokesman for NCTA said they had nothing to add to the filing, which was signed by Mary Beth Murphy, deputy general counsel to the cable organization.

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Hytera’s Inclusion on FCC’s National Security Blacklist ‘Absurd,’ Client Says

Diversified Communications Group said the FCC flubbed on adding Hytera to blacklist.



Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – A client of a company that has been included in a list of companies the Federal Communications Commission said pose threats to the security of the country’s networks is asking the agency to reconsider including the company.

In a letter to the commission on Tuesday, Diversified Communications Group, which installs and distributes two-way radio communications devices to large companies, said the inclusion of Hytera Communications Corporation, a Chinese manufacturer of radio equipment, on a list of national security threats is “absurd” because the hardware involved is not connected to the internet and “does not transmit any sensitive or proprietary data.

“It seems that Hytera has been lumped in with other Chinese companies on the Covered List simply because they happen to manufacture electronics in the same country,” Diversified’s CEO Ryan Holte said in the letter, adding Hytera’s products have helped Diversified’s business thrive.

“This is a wrong that should be righted. Hytera is not a national security risk. They are an essential business partner to radio companies throughout the U.S.,” the CEO added.

In March, the FCC announced that it had designated Hytera among other Chinese businesses with alleged links to the Communist government. Others included Huawei, ZTE, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Dahua Technology.

List among a number of restrictions on Chinese companies

This list of companies was created in accordance with the Secure Networks Act, and the FCC indicated that it would continue to add companies to the list if they are deemed to “pose an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons.”

Last month, the Senate commerce committee passed through legislation that would compel the FCC to no longer issue new equipment licenses to China-backed companies.

Last year the U.S. government took steps to ensure that federal agencies could not purchase goods or services from the aforementioned companies, and had previously added them to an economic blacklist.

In July, the FCC voted in favor of putting in place measures that would require U.S. carriers to rip and replace equipment by these alleged threat companies.

The Biden administration has been making moves to isolate alleged Chinese-linked threats to the country’s networks. In June, the White House signed an executive order limiting investments in predominantly Chinese companies that it said poses a threat to national security.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Says 5 Million Households Now Enrolled in Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The $3.2 billion program provides broadband and device subsidies to eligible low-income households.



Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 30, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday that five million households have enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

The $3.2-billion program, which launched in May, provides a broadband subsidy of $50 per month to eligible low-income households and $75 per month for those living on native tribal lands, as well as a one-time reimbursement on a device. Over 1160 providers are participating, the FCC said, who are reimbursed the cost to provide the discounted services.

The agency has been updating the public on the number of participating households for the program. In June, the program was at just over three million and had passed four million last month. The program was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“Enrolling five million households into the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program in a little over three months is no small feat,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of nearly 30,000 individuals and organizations who signed up as volunteer outreach partners.”

Rosenworcel added that conversations with partners and the FCC’s analysis shows the need for “more granular data” to bring these opportunities to more eligible families.

The program’s strong demand was seen as far back as March.

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