Tag Archives: FCC

Proposed new FCC regulations would shut out student cubesats

We’re here to help you! Proposed new FCC regulations on the licensing of smallsats would raise the licensing cost for student-built cubesats so much that universities would likely have to shut down the programs.

In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country’s aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee – plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year – to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications.

It would be a dramatic increase in costs. The most common type of small satellite used in education is the U.S.-developed CubeSat. Each is about 10 inches on a side and weighs 2 or 3 pounds. A working CubeSat that can take pictures of the Earth can be developed for only $5,000 in parts. They’re assembled by volunteer students and launched by NASA at no charge to the school or college. Currently, most missions pay under $100 to the FCC for an experimental license, as well as several hundred dollars to the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates satellite positions and frequencies. [emphasis mine]

If these new and very high licensing fees are correct I find them shocking. As noted in the quote, building a cubesat costs practically nothing, only about $5,000. The new fees thus add gigantic costs to the satellite’s development, and could literally wipe the market out entirely. They certainly will end most university programs that have students build cubesats as a first step towards learning how to build satellites.

These new regulations appear to be part of the Trump administration’s effort to streamline and update the regulatory process for commercial space. It also appears that the FCC has fumbled badly here in its part of this process.

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House passes law reforming commercial space licensing rules

The House yesterday passed a new law to reform the commercial space licensing rules.

Essentially, the bill shifts a majority of commercial space regulation to the Department of Commerce, and matches somewhat closely the recommendations being put forth by the Trump administration.

The bill appears to be almost identical to the version I analyzed in great detail in an op-ed for The Federalist last year. It has the same positives and negatives. While it definitely aims at simplifying the licensing process for space (abolishing such agencies as NOAA’s Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs that recently tried to claim it had the right to license all photograph of Earth from space.), it does not appear to completely make Commerce that “one-stop shop” for all licensing, allowing the FAA and FCC to retain their space licensing responsibilities. Moreover, it appears, as I noted in my op-ed, to avoid the more essential legal problems, such as the Outer Space Treaty, that hamper private space today and will hamper private space even more in the future.

Regardless, it does appear that the turf war over licensing between Commerce and the FAA is over. Though the law still must get through the Senate, it does appear that Commerce has mostly won. It will get the majority of this bureaucratic bauble. What that bureaucracy will do with it, however, is the real question.

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FCC upset FCC not included in National Space Council

Turf war! The FCC commissioner today questioned the omission of an FCC representative on Trump’s reborn National Space Council.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said April 17 that the Federal Communications Commission “needs to coordinate more closely with other federal authorities” as it navigates through new space activities. “Right now the National Space Council is considering policy changes to help promote the growth of the commercial space industry,” she said. “Their efforts encompass everything from streamlining licenses to reforming export controls, protecting airwaves, to facilitating space activities … the FCC should have a seat at the table. It’s a glaring omission that this agency does not, because through our oversight of the airwaves and licensing of satellite services, we have an important role ensuring the viability of space for future generations.”

Rosenworcel noted that the National Space Council as revived by the Trump administration last year has a distinguished list of leaders, including the head of NASA, the secretaries of defense, transportation and homeland security, and others, calling it “an impressive list.” But “cutting the FCC out of this discussion is an unseemly mistake, and one that deserves a fix,” she said.

To translate: The FCC wants to keep its regulatory power over space operations, and by excluding them from the council Trump is threatening that power. This is unacceptable!

If the Trump administration is truly serious about streamlining the space regulatory bureaucracy, we should hear more complaints like this in the coming months, from the FAA, NASA, the State Department, and other agencies. Normally such government streamlining efforts only make things worse, because all the threatened government agencies chime in with complaints like this. The result is that nothing gets streamlined. Instead, the effort merely adds another layer of bureaucracy, as illustrated by my previous post.

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FCC accuses satellite startup of launching satellites without a license

Four tiny nanosats built by a California startup that were placed in orbit by India’s PSLV rocket in January now appear to have been launched without an FCC license.

Swarm believes its network could enable satellite communications for orders of magnitude less cost than existing options. It envisages the worldwide tracking of ships and cars, new agricultural technologies, and low cost connectivity for humanitarian efforts anywhere in the world. The four SpaceBees would be the first practical demonstration of Swarm’s prototype hardware and cutting-edge algorithms, swapping data with ground stations for up to eight years.

The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft.

If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.

The FCC denied the license because the nanosats were so small there is a fear they could become a space junk hazard. The FCC has now vacated an approved license for launching four more Swarm satellites on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket in April because, “The FCC believes that Swarm launched and is operating its original small satellites, despite having been forbidden to do so.”

If this story is true, it illustrates some incredibly stupid decisions by the people running Swarm. The FCC concerns here appear quite reasonable, and the company’s decision to ignore them now means that they might have gambled their entire company away. Moreover, this does harm to Rocket Lab, which has lost a customer.

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Battle for communications spectrum between private companies

The competition heats up: One group of mobile broadband companies is fighting another group of satellite-based internet companies for control over the use of a part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

A coalition of 5G terrestrial mobile broadband companies led by Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network on June 8 asked U.S. regulators to strip future low-orbiting satellite Internet constellations of their priority access to 500 megahertz of Ku-band spectrum – spectrum coveted by prospective constellation operators including OneWeb LLC and SpaceX. SpaceX and satellite fleet operator Intelsat, a OneWeb investor and partner, immediately filed separate opposition papers to the FCC, arguing that nongeostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations are very much alive.

In the middle is the FCC and our hapless and increasingly corrupt federal government. I sadly suspect the side that will win this battle will be the side that gives the most campaign money to the right politicians.

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O boy! Obama wants to regulate the internet!

On Monday the Obama administration declared its desire that the FCC should increase its regulation of the internet, embracing White House proposals for something progressives like to label “net neutrality.”

By backing a policy commonly referred to as Net Neutrality, President Barack Obama is advocating for that the internet to be regulated like any other public utility. “To put these protections in place, I’m asking the [Federal Communications Commission] to reclassifying internet service under Title II of a law known as the Telecommunications Act,” Obama said in a statement on Monday.

Since the issue of “net neutrality” became a hot button progressive issue several years ago, I have tried to figure it out, all to no avail. The issue is so complex that my first instinct is that the government should simply leave well enough alone, since any action the government takes is usually harmful.

Now, however, with Obama putting his brilliant support behind it I have no doubts — these regulatory proposals should be doused with gasoline, burnt to a crisp, then buried in a hole so deep no one will ever be able to dig them up.

I say this not because of any personal hatred of Obama, but because I have seen the disaster of Obama’s biggest regulatory effort, Obamacare. Why should anyone with any brains at all ever trust him again with any future regulatory effort in any area of public policy? No one should. He and the present generation of Democrats proved with Obamacare that their ideas about government regulation are bankrupt. They should quietly sit down and shut up, and let some adults who know how to think run things.

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A bill introduced in Congress would require numerous government agencies to study the role of telecommunications in the encouragement of hate crimes.

A bill introduced in Congress would require numerous government agencies to study the role of telecommunications in the encouragement of hate crimes.

The bills require a report within one year by the NTIA (The National Telecommunications and Information Administration) with the assistance of the DOJ, the Commission, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to be submitted to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate on the role of telecommunications in hate crimes. … The report, according to the bill, “shall analyze information on the use of telecommunications, including the Internet, broadcast television and radio, cable television, public access television, commercial mobile services, and other electronic media, to advocate and encourage violent acts and the commission of crimes of hate, as described in the Hate Crime Statistics Act.”

The bill leaves the definition of “hate” entirely up to the government, and would produce a report that would be a great tool in the hands of politicians to squelch speech they don’t like.

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A blogger with brains and a passion for free speech explains to the brainless and partisan mainstream press why the Obama administration thinks it can get away with monitoring the news gathering operations of the press and not face outraged criticism.

A blogger with brains and a passion for free speech explains to the brainless and partisan mainstream press why the Obama administration thinks it can get away with monitoring the news gathering operations of the press and not face outraged criticism.

Read it all. If you happen to be a journalist with any ethics, it will make you sick.

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The Obama administration is moving ahead with a FCC project to send government agents into newsrooms to make sure journalists cover certain topics the Obama administration considers important.

The first amendment is such an inconvenient thing: The Obama administration is moving ahead with a FCC project to send government agents into newsrooms to make sure journalists cover certain topics the Obama administration considers important.

I had read about this proposed project last week but had then seen reports that the FCC was backing down. Now it appears they are not.

What I can’t figure out is this: What news organization is going to agree to this? The FCC has no legal power over print journalism. If those researchers wanted to enter my newsroom or question my reporting, I’d simply tell them to go to hell, after I recorded the conversation. I would then report on that conversation, making it as embarrassing as I could for that researcher and the Obama administration.

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A federal court has thrown out the net neutrality rules imposed by Obama’s FCC appointees, stating that the commission had overstepped its authority.

The law is such an inconvenient thing: A federal court has thrown out the net neutrality rules imposed by Obama’s FCC appointees, stating that the commission had overstepped its authority.

Have you noticed how the left always comes up for these meaningless terms — “net neutrality”, “single payer”, etc — any time they want to expand their power over our lives?

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“The villain of the piece.”

LightSquared and GPS: “The villain of the piece.”

The answer emerging from countless legal filings and Congressional hearings is that the government itself is the villain of the piece, the absence of collaboration between agencies allowing one to act without consulting the others. In bypassing its normal processes to expedite approval of LightSquared’s plan to use its mobile satellite service frequencies for a terrestrial broadband wireless network, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) left its fellow Defense and Transportation Departments, Homeland Security and others, scrambling to protect GPS signals on which they now depend.

Actually, saying the “government” is the villain is too vague. Let us name names, highlighted in bold below:

An independent agency, the FCC claimed to be acting in the public interest by boosting the Obama administration’s national broadband plan when it approved LightSquared’s proposal, but in bypassing the normal notice of proposed rulemaking step it short-circuited a technical process that would have addressed the GPS interference issue in an orderly matter. In the subsequent rush to perform tests, critics were quick to point out close personal and political links between President Barack Obama, FCC chairman Julian Genachowski and hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone, LightSquared’s majority owner.

“Substantial federal resources, including over $2 million from the FAA, have been expended and diverted from other programs in testing and analyzing LightSquared’s proposals,” John Porcari, deputy transportation secretary, testified to Congress on Feb. 8. “This level of investment in assisting a commercial applicant to achieve the successful approval of its government application is quite unusual,” he said. [emphasis mine]

Shall we put it more bluntly, as I like to do? Obama and Genachowski attempted to bypass the normal licensing procedures in order to help Falcone (who had given mucho contributions to Obama’s campaign war chest) and in the process wasted millions of taxpayer dollars while simultaneously threatening the operation of millions of GPS units used by the general public and the military.

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The FCC commissioner wants to regulate on the airwaves

Freedom of speech alert: The FCC commissioner has made it clear in a recent appearance on the BBC that he strongly supports having the FCC regulate in some manner the news coverage of radios and television. You can see the video here. Key quote from the article above:

In practice, Copps’s recommendations — however well intended — necessarily entail expanding the power of bureaucrats to monitor media content, power which can then be used for objectionable and politicized goals.

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