Amidst increasing space activities, the FCC plans to devote a new bureau for space in an attempt to keep up with the developments in the satellite industry.
The International Bureau, which is part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has been the committee, thus far, addressing space-related issues, such as licensing data-transmitting satellites within US soil. But now, there might be a change coming. With the build up of debris in the space environment, the responsibility of mitigating it via policies has been taken on by the International Bureau in the past years. For instance, in September, the FCC announced its adoption of a revised five-year time period for defunct satellites in low-Earth orbit to deorbit following the end of their mission, which is a far smaller time frame compared to the previous period of 25 years. However, this move has been criticized by US lawmakers who did not fail to question the authority of the FCC in enacting the policy that is outside their mandate.
Following this, and adding to it the fact that there is an astronomical rise in space activities in recent years, the FCC has stated its plans to split the International Bureau into two distinct offices: the Office of International Affairs and the Space Bureau. The agency’s chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, recognises the need for FCC to better facilitate the developing needs of the 21st-century booming satellite industry while handling global communications policy. She adds the rapid growth of the satellite industry has left behind the regulatory frameworks for licensing in the race as the FCC has not been able to keep up.
In the past two years alone, the agency received applications for 64,000 new satellites,not to mention the additional influx of new players and advanced technologies. Chairwoman Rosenworcel believes that the “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.”
With the creation of a bureau solely devoted to space, FCC can be expected to keep up with the developments in the satellite industry and develop new regulations for space systems, with relevance, efficiency and effectiveness. The agency will be better organized and equipped to mitigate space debris and designate more resources to satellite application processing. According to Umair Javed, FCC chief counsel for Rosenworcel, this proposal for a new Space Bureau is still in the works to be discussed with authorizing committees, commissioners and others.