Orbital Debris Mitigation and University Research

(By Freddy Steimling, Colorado Law 2L)

University of Colorado aerospace engineering Professor Scott Palo and the TLPC have filed comments before the Federal Communication Commission regarding the Commission’s orbital debris mitigation policies. The TLPC asked the Commission to adopt regulations that effectively mitigate the buildup of orbital debris in coveted orbits while preserving access to orbits that are important to university-led missions.

Update (May 6, 2019): Prof. Palo and the TLPC have filed an additional set of reply comments.

Last Week in Tech Policy #56: LEDs Talk About Lights!

(By Sophia Galleher, Colorado Law 2L)

Some people enter Newark Airport and look up. The lights, like many LEDs, seem almost too crisp—too bright. But most travelers, perhaps worried about missing a connection or losing a wayward child in the terminal, rush through the airport without raising a brow; the LEDs lights, twinkling down from their chic, architectural fixtures, don’t really beg much thought. They seem innocuous enough.

But just know, the next time you walk through Newark Airport, that those lights are watching you.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #49: Preemption of Local Authority for Wireless Siting

(By Irena Stevens, PhD Candidate in the Interdisciplinary Telecom Program)

With the goal of promoting the deployment of next-generation wireless facilities, the FCC will vote on April 20th  to continue a rulemaking proposal to preempt local authority in the Right-of-Way (ROW). Wireless carriers are increasingly seeing utility poles in the ROW as an opportunity to expedite and diminish the cost of siting small cells, and say that local governments are creating unnecessary delays and charging excessive fees for pole attachments.

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Last Week in Tech Policy #41: FMExit—Norway’s Transition from FM Radio to Digital Audio Broadcasting

(by Zach Goldberg, Colorado Law 2L)

Norway has begun phasing out analog FM radio by shutting down broadcasts in certain parts of the country. The switch began at 11:11 am on January 11 Nordland, a county in northern Norway, and within a year, the Norwegian government plans to transition the entire country to Digital Audio Broadcasting (“DAB”). Under this new regulatory scheme, only 200 or so small local stations will be permitted to broadcast on FM frequencies.

This post explores the past, present, and future of the transition.

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Piloting Risk-Informed Assessments in the FCC Waiver Applications

Working with Silicon Flatirons Senior Fellow Pierre de Vries, TLPC student attorneys Andrew Manley and Jonathan Bair endorse prior recommendations that the Federal Communications Commission improve its waiver application process for radio operations through the adoption of Risk-Informed Interference Assessment (RIA). The TLPC and de Vries submitted a filing to the Commission suggesting how RIA might be adopted as a tool to assist the Commission in its decision making process. The filing elaborates on the RIA method, offers a checklist by which the Commission can request RIA from parties, and explores three test waivers for the application of RIA.

Last Week In Tech Law & Policy, Vol. 33: Space Junk, A Growing Threat to the Future of Space Access

In 2007 China tested an anti-satellite missile against one of its decommissioned weather satellites 800km above the earth in an explosion, creating 100,000 new pieces of orbital debris in a single instant. In 2009 a commercial Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian satellite collided over Siberia creating over 2,000 of pieces of debris capable of being tracked and even more that we cannot yet see. In 2015 the ISS performed a Red Conjunction where the crew evacuated to the Soyuz escape craft while a piece of debris passed close to the station without enough warning for a debris avoidance maneuver.

Even higher in orbit, there are many more defunct spacecraft posing risks to geostationary satellites. Since Sputnik first blasted its way into space in 1957, thousands of satellites have been sent into orbit around the Earth. But what happens to these satellites once they are no longer used?

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TLPC Files Followup on Petition For Rulemaking Re: Spectrum Interference Dispute Resolution

This semester, TLPC student attorneys Marcus Degen, Kolton Ray and Jeff Westling continued work on the clinic’s Petition for Rulemaking regarding spectrum interference dispute resolution. With the help of Silicon Flatirons Fellow Pierre de Vries, the student attorney’s analyzed, synthesized and replied to comments and concerns raised in the docket by various stakeholders regarding the Clinic’s proposed ALJ option: where issues arising from spectrum management could be resolved by the Commission’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

The Clinic incorporated this research, in addition to the feedback from attorneys, technologists and policymakers, into a reply comment  filed with the FCC late last week. The reply rebuts negative assumptions and responds to key concerns; the key takeaway is that numerous parties agree that there is a problem with the current system of interference dispute resolution. With this filing, we urge the FCC to take the next step and initiate an NPRM to develop a timely, transparent, and fact-based mechanism to resolve spectrum interference disputes.

Last Week in Tech Law and Policy, Vol. 22: Open Source Firmware and the Future of Router Modification

(by Jeffrey Westling, Colorado Law 2L)

Last Friday, the Federal Communications Commission closed the comment period for ET Docket No. 15-170, a controversial proceeding that may limit Wi-Fi users’ ability to install open source firmware on wireless routers. The FCC has remained adamant that their goal in this process is not to restrict users from modifying their routers, but rather to ensure that routers do not operate outside certain regulatory parameters. However, Wi-Fi users fear that the new rules may actually incentivize manufacturers to block all open source firmware from being installed on their devices rather than just limiting signal boosting capabilities or operating outside of the correct channels.

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TLPC Files FCC Petition for Rulemaking re: Spectrum Interference Dispute Resolution

This semester, TLPC student attorney Stephanie Vu and student technologist Stefan Tschimben continued their work from the previous semester on a petition for rulemaking at the FCC under Silicon Flatirons Fellow Pierre de Vries’ guidance and mentorship. During the fall semester, the students, along with student attorney Chris Laughlin, researched how the FCC currently resolved spectrum interference disputes and drafted a petition for rulemaking to improve the process by suggesting that the FCC allow parties to bring their cases directly to an Administrative Law Judge for adjudication. This semester, the students sought feedback from attorneys, technologists, and policymakers, which was addressed and incorporated into the petition, filed today at the Commission.