FCC Requests Comment on Domestic Coverage Requirement in Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Non-Geostationary, Fixed Satellite Service Systems

By notice dated November 15, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to remove its domestic coverage requirement for non-geostationary-satellite orbit (NGSO), fixed-satellite service (FSS) satellite systems.  Because the FCC tends to only publish summaries of its notices in the Federal Register, don’t forget to look here for the full text of its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

In brief, the FCC requires NGSO FSS systems to provide continuous coverage of the fifty states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and prohibits systems with more localized coverages.  This approach has resulted in waiver requests:

For example, …, one operator seeks to provide service in remote areas of Alaska as part of an ‘‘Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission.’’ Its satellite system would operate in a highly elliptical orbit chosen to maximize service to the Arctic region, but which prevents coverage of the lower United States. Another operator is currently providing low-latency satellite service to Americans at sea. The equatorial orbit of its system, however, precludes U.S. coverage at high latitudes. Such specialized systems may be authorized by foreign administrations and intended to serve only part of the United States. We do not believe it would serve the public interest to block access to these systems solely because of their specialized coverage areas, given that multiple NGSO FSS systems can share the same frequency bands. Rather, we expect that the most efficient way to encourage widespread service offerings by NGSO FSS systems, including in remote and underserved areas of the United States, would be to allow both general and specialized coverage systems.

In order to allow operators greater flexibility in their system design, the Commission proposes to remove this requirement.  It asks for comment on specific points:

[I]s it appropriate to deny access to every concerned frequency band if a system design does not allow for continuous U.S. coverage? What are the advantages of retaining, or removing, this coverage requirement? For parties that support retaining the domestic coverage requirement, are there particular considerations we should take into account when deciding whether or not to waive it in a particular case?

Don’t forget to comment even if you like the proposal.  There may be someone out there who doesn’t, and your arguments and reasons may be what tilts the balance in your favor.

Comments due:  January 2, 2018

Reply comments due: January 29, 2018