Today, TechFreedom filed comments in response to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM) activities that may involve Commission licensing. We applaud the Commission for issuing this NOI rather than jumping directly to an NPRM—but express serious concerns over their jurisdiction and expertise in this area. 

“The FCC lacks statutory authority to regulate ISAM,” said James E. Dunstan, TechFreedom’s General Counsel. “The NOI fails to ask this fundamental question. This did not escape the notice of several members of Congress, who have already submitted a bipartisan letter in the docket warning the FCC that it may be overstepping its jurisdiction. Even the FCC has previously questioned whether it has this authority.”

“The FCC lacks the expertise to declare itself the Federal Space Commission,” Dunstan continued. “The FCC’s experience in ISAM is limited and new. This is in sharp contrast to the decades of study and development in both the government and private sector of ISAM activities. The FCC is at its best, and is afforded the most deference by the courts, when it deals with the issue of spectrum and radio frequency interference, not when steps into a perceived regulatory gap to regulate the activities of U.S. citizens.”

“This proceeding can set the stage for what the FCC can do,” Dunstan concluded. “Despite our grave concerns about FCC overreach, we agree on the role of the FCC in identifying spectrum needed for ISAM and licensing users for that spectrum. We therefore urge the Commission not to adopt a mission-based approach to spectrum allocation and licensing. Given the variability in the types of operations encompassed by ISAM, a flexible regulatory approach is needed which can react rapidly to industry needs and timelines. The failure to do this will lead to a catastrophic brain drain as U.S. space companies move overseas where the regulatory systems better align with industry needs.” 


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