FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today announced an 11-item agenda for the FCC’s Nov. 15 meeting, including nine items for what he called “Space Month” at the agency. The space items include those dealing with the Galileo navigation system, non-geostationary satellite constellations, earth stations in motion, a unified space station/earth station license, and orbital debris. One of two non-space items deals with hearing aid compatibility.
“We start with improving a satellite-enabled technology that millions of Americans rely on every day without even knowing it: the positioning, navigation, and timing service known to most Americans as the Global Positioning System, or GPS,” Mr. Pai said in a blog posting. “Consumers regularly use GPS to navigate while driving, to locate a store, and even to find our phones. Meanwhile, businesses are using GPS for high-precision agriculture, fleet tracking, and monitoring drones. Given all these uses, it’s important for us to take steps to improve GPS when we can. That’s why the Commission will vote in November on allowing American devices to access the European global navigation satellite system, known as Galileo. Enabling the Galileo system to work in concert with the U.S. GPS constellation should make GPS more precise, reliable, and resilient — a boon to consumers and businesses alike.”
“The proposed action will waive FCC licensing requirements for non-Federal operations with Galileo signals E1 and E5, subject to certain technical constraints. Put simply, it will permit non-federal devices to receive certain signals from the Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS),” according to the FCC. “The FCC includes conditions to ensure that users of PNT (satellite based positioning, navigation, and timing) services in the United States, which now may be supported by the Galileo GNSS, benefit from increased availability, reliability, and resiliency of those services[.] The potential public interest benefits associated with grant of the waivers are significant. The Galileo GNSS is uniquely situated as a foreign GNSS system with respect to the U.S. GPS, since the two systems are interoperable and RF compatible under the 2004 EU/US Galileo-GPS Agreement and subsequent EC/US actions to implement that agreement.”
“GPSIA was thrilled to see FCC Chairman Pai’s blog in which he rightly identified the importance of GPS and to ensuring that it remains precise, reliable and resilient,” said David Grossman, executive director of the GPS Innovation Alliance. “We look forward to reviewing his proposals over the coming days.”
“Speaking of constellations, we’ll also be voting on a package of orders that would give the green light to companies seeking to roll out new and expanded services using new non-geostationary satellite constellations,” Mr. Pai added in the blog post. “Kepler is looking to create a new satellite system for the Internet of Things, and LeoSat would like to offer high-speed connectivity for enterprises and underserved communities. We’re aiming to approve both requests. And we’ve also targeted for approval the requests of SpaceX and TeleSat Canada to expand the frequencies they can use so that their fleets of low Earth orbit satellites can offer even better broadband service.
“To help these new constellations have a real impact down here on Earth, we’re also looking to expand the opportunities for satellites to serve Earth Stations in Motion (ESIMs),” Mr. Pai said. “We started down this path in September, when we made it easier for geostationary-orbit satellites to target ESIMs, improving the transmission of data to moving vehicles like ships, airplanes, or school buses [TR Daily, Sept. 26]. Building on that item, I’ve circulated a proposal to expand the scope of our ESIMs rules to cover communications with non-geostationary orbit satellites. This proposal would unlock new uses of satellites, ensuring that those who need broadband on-the-go can access the technology that best meets their needs.”
The Chairman also said that two additional items to be considered at next month’s meeting “should help ensure our rules don’t hold back the launch of new satellite systems.
“One proposal would create a new unified license for space stations and earth stations operating in a geostationary, fixed-satellite service satellite network. A product of the FCC’s 2016 Biennial Review, the proposal would provide a new, streamlined license option for satellite operators and would reduce unnecessary reporting burdens,” he said. “Another proposal would update our rules governing direct broadcast satellite service so that it too could benefit from the streamlining of our rules for launching satellite service in other bands.”
Mr. Pai also said the agency would tackle the thorny issue of orbital debris, saying that the problem “is only set to grow as we see the deployment of CubeSats and other small, relatively inexpensive satellites, thousands of which can be deployed in constellations. We’ll have to address this growing risk in order to preserve our ability to promote more innovation and investment in space. That’s why I’ve proposed the first comprehensive review of the Commission’s orbital debris rules since their adoption in 2004. This proposal aims to improve and clarify these rules based on improvements in mitigation practices, and to address recent market developments.”
In a non-space item, Mr. Pai said the FCC also will “vote on a Report and Order involving hearing aid compatibility. This proposal would strengthen our website disclosure requirements for wireless service providers, ensuring consumers can find the information they need. It also would eliminate unnecessary and outdated wireless hearing aid compatibility reporting requirements and replace them with a streamlined annual certification.”
Last week, industry and consumer groups told the FCC that they agree that the agency should no longer require wireless carriers to file Form 655 to report their compliance with the agency’s HAC rules as long as “the Commission requires service providers to both annually certify compliance with the Commission’s HAC rules and enhance the information on their consumer-facing websites. These new obligations would be in addition to the existing HAC requirements” (TR Daily, Oct. 22).
CTIA, the Competitive Carriers Association, the Telecommunications Industry Association, and the Hearing Loss Association of America unveiled their consensus proposal in an ex parte filing Friday in WT docket 17-228.
In his blog posting, Mr. Pai said that the final item that Commissioners will consider at the Nov. 15 meeting is part of the agency’s efforts to modernize its media regulations. They will “consider a Report and Order to update certain notice requirements that principally apply to cable operators,” he said. “Among other things, we’ll allow these companies to send written communications to subscribers via e-mail, rather than by paper mail.”- Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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