House of Representatives Offers Bipartisan Satellite Communications Bills

Last Friday, the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee announced new legislation aiming to foster competition, innovation, national security, and American leadership in the commercial satellite communications sector. Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) authored the discussion draft bills: the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act and the Secure Space Act.

The members explained that the bills seek to streamline regulatory processes. The press release contended that lack of regulatory oversight must not hold America back, as the nation needs to compete with China, a country which is “rac[ing] to dominate this industry” at the potential expense of public safety, the announcement said.

Specifically, the discussion drafts seek to modernize Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) satellite licensing rules under the Communications Act. The new provisions aim to promote responsible space management, incentivize investment and development, and push U.S. leadership in the satellite communications networks. 

The E&C Committee noted that American companies are well-poised to initiate broadband and other advanced communications services using satellite technologies. Now, politicians from both sides of the aisle can begin the process of refining the laws with feedback from experts and interested parties. For her part, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel commended the news. “While the FCC staff has done tremendous work in reviewing applications and simultaneously updating our rules from orbital debris to commercial space launch communications, the truth is that the laws were written to address a different satellite ecosystem. I welcome this bipartisan and bold effort by Congress to take on these modern challenges to ensure we capitalize on the amazing technological and economic opportunities at hand,” she said in a statement.