House rejects satellite spectrum licensing bill because of space safety provisions | Space


WASHINGTON — A bill intended to reform satellite spectrum licensing regulations failed to pass the House July 25 after some members objected to provisions they claimed gave the Federal Communications Commission authority to regulate space safety.

The House debated H.R. 1338, the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act, under suspension of the rules, a procedure that limits debates and amendments but requires a two-thirds majority for passage. The bill, though, fell short of that threshold, with 250 votes in favor versus 163 votes against. One member voted present.

The bill was intended to improve the licensing process for satellite systems at the FCC, a modernization that the bill’s advocates said was long overdue and necessary to ensure American competitiveness in the satellite communications market. It would have set time limits on the FCC’s review of satellite licenses and enabled expedited reviews of minor license modifications. The House Energy and Commerce Committee favorably reported the bill on a unanimous vote in March.

However, the leadership of House Science Committee opposed the bill because of provisions regarding regulation of space debris and space traffic management. They pointed to language in the bill that directed the FCC to establish “specific, measurable, and technology-neutral performance objectives for space safety and orbital debris.”

In a “Dear Colleague” letter circulated to House members ahead of the vote, the bipartisan leadership of the full committee and its space subcommittee argued that the FCC would be overstepping its authority by attempting to regulate space safety.

“Congress has never explicitly granted FCC authority to regulate in these areas, and doing so now is a significant policy decision,” the letter stated, adding that the FCC also lacked expertise to do so. “Assigning FCC responsibility to both create these rules and assess an applicant’s compliance would divert…

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