PSSI Global Services, LLC v. Federal Communications Commission, No. 20-1142 (D.C. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The DC Circuit upheld the FCC's order significantly narrowing a frequency band dedicated to fixed satellite transmissions in order to make room for the emerging fifth generation of mobile cellular technology. At issue in this case is whether this change permissibly modified the existing station licenses of three small satellite operators (SSO) and PSSI, a company that broadcasts live events through satellites. The SSOs and PSSI each filed an appeal for review of the FCC's order under 47 U.S.C. 402(b) and a petition under 47 U.S.C. 402(a).
In this case, the SSOs and PSSI principally argue that the order exceeds the FCC's statutory authority to modify existing station licenses. The court concluded that, although the governing statutes by their terms speak only of licenses, the FCC gives market access grants the same protection that it gives to full Commission licenses. The court rejected the SSO's claims that the change to their market access grants was too fundamental to qualify as a modification under section 316(a)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934; that the FCC arbitrarily restricted their future business opportunities and excluded them from receiving compensation from the future 5G providers; and that the FCC impermissibly sanctioned them without prior notice. The court also rejected PSSI's claim that its licenses to transmit within the C-band uplink have been fundamentally changed. Rather, substantial evidence supported the FCC's conclusion that earth stations—including PSSI's mobile ones—will be able to "provide the same services" to their customers after the license modification. Finally, the court concluded that the parties' remaining challenges to the order lack merit.