FCC Takes Small Step toward Making New Satellite Rules Effective

For more than six months since adopting comprehensive revisions to the Federal Communications Commission’s Part 25 rules governing licensing and operations of satellites and earth stations, uncertainty regarding when the rules would become effective has reigned. In its August 9, 2013, Report and Order in IB Docket No. 12-267, the Commission explained that because many of the rule changes require approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), all rule changes adopted in this Report and Order will become effective on the same date.” The fog cleared just a little last week when the Commission published notice of the rules in the Federal Register. However, the effective dates are still not known and, in fact, OMB review under the PRA has not even begun. The next step is for the FCC to issue its 60-day notice of information collection under the PRA. Meanwhile, the prior rules continue to apply. Given the need for OMB review, the long wait for Federal Register publication pushes even further back in time when the rules which will become effective generally and delays compliance dates for particular rules, such as the automatic transmitter identification system (ATIS) rules for digitally modulated uplink transmitters.

The February 12, 2014, Federal Register publication does serve the purpose, however, of starting the clock for petitions for reconsideration by interested parties of any aspects of the new rules. Reconsideration petitions, if any, must be filed by March 14, 2014, 30 days after publication.

Once OMB approval is complete, the Commission will publish a notice in the Federal Register establishing the effective date of all of the rule changes and additions. That day is widely anticipated, as the revised rules streamline filing requirements and are designed to promote more rapid deployment of satellite services, better reflect evolving technology, more accurately assess interference potential, and afford operators more flexibility.