On November 3, 2022, Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced plans to reorganize the International Bureau into a new Space Bureau and a standalone Office of International Affairs. The changes are intended to help ensure FCC resources are aligned to meet the needs of FCC licensees and regulatees by “elevat[ing] the significance of satellite programs and policy within the agency to a level that reflects the importance of the emerging space economy.” 

In proposing the new Space Bureau, Chairwoman Rosenworcel recognized the need for the FCC to “keep pace with the rapidly changing realities of the satellite industry and global communications policy,” explaining that:

“The satellite industry is growing at a record pace, but here on the ground our regulatory frameworks for licensing them have not kept up. Over the past two years the agency has received applications for 64,000 new satellites. In addition, we are seeing new commercial models, new players, and new technologies coming together to pioneer a wide-range of new satellite services and space-based activities that need access to wireless airwaves.”

Chairwoman Rosenworcel hopes this reorganization will better enable the FCC to fulfill its statutory obligations, including licensing radio frequency used by satellite operators and reviewing orbital debris mitigation plans in the public interest. To further these mandates, the newly-focused Space Bureau “will support United States leadership in the emerging space economy, promote long-term technical capacity to address satellite policies, and improve [FCC] coordination with other agencies on these issues” and will be better positioned to address “[t]he way [modern] constellations are designed, satellites are manufactured, launches are organized, and even how systems are upgraded or replaced.”

In addition to shifting to a Space Bureau, Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced the creation of a standalone Office of International Affairs. The new office will follow the model of other FCC offices, and it will “allow[] for consistent expertise to be leveraged across all the Bureaus with a nexus to international affairs.”

For any questions about the FCC’s proposed reorganization or how to navigate the FCC’s satellite & space regulatory regime, please contact a Sheppard Mullin telecom attorney below.