In the Matter of the )
COMMENTS OF MOTIENT SERVICES INC.
Motient Services Inc. ("Motient") hereby respectfully submits these comments in connection with the President’s annual report to Congress on the ORBIT Act. In the Report, the President must assess the privatization of INTELSAT and Inmarsat in relation to the objectives, purposes, and provisions of the ORBIT Act and include the "[v]iews of the industry and consumers on privatization." ORBIT Act § 646.
Motient limits its comments herein to the privatization of Inmarsat. While the NTIA notes that Inmarsat privatized on April 15, 1999, Inmarsat has not privatized consistent with the ORBIT Act because it has still failed to meet at least two of the ORBIT Act’s privatization criteria. Until Inmarsat complies with all of the ORBIT Act privatization criteria, Inmarsat should not be allowed access to the U.S. market.
Motient is the entity authorized by the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") in 1989 to construct, launch, and operate a U.S. mobile satellite service ("MSS") system in L-band. The first Motient satellite was launched in 1995, and Motient began offering service in 1996. Today, Motient offers a full range of land, maritime, and aeronautical mobile satellite services, including voice and data, throughout the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and coastal areas up to 200 miles offshore.
In March 2000, Congress passed the "Open-market Reorganization for the Betterment of International Telecommunications" ("ORBIT Act"). The goal of the ORBIT Act is "to promote a fully competitive global market for satellite communication services for the benefit of consumers and providers of satellite services and equipment by fully privatizing the intergovernmental satellite organizations, INTELSAT and Inmarsat." ORBIT Act § 2. In passing the ORBIT Act, Congress recognized that Inmarsat, as a former intergovernmental organization ("IGO"), enjoyed certain competitive advantages over private companies such as Motient.
The ORBIT Act guides the FCC to consider certain criteria when assessing an application from "any entity subject to United States jurisdiction for authorization to use any space segment owned, leased, or operated by . . . Inmarsat, or [its] successor entit[y], to provide non-core services to, from, or within the United States." In considering such an application, the FCC must decide whether Inmarsat has been privatized "in a manner that will harm competition in the telecommunications markets of the United States." ORBIT Act § 601(b)(1)(A)(ii).
The ORBIT Act provides clearly defined criteria that the privatized Inmarsat must fully meet before the FCC can determine that Inmarsat has privatized in a manner that will not harm competition. ORBIT Act §§ 621, 622, 624. Among these criteria is the requirement that Inmarsat conduct an initial public offering ("IPO") on or about October 1, 2000 that substantially dilutes its ownership by former signatories. ORBIT Act § 621(5)(A)(ii). The FCC has discretion to extend this deadline to December 31, 2001 after considering "market conditions and relevant business factors" warranting such an extension. Id. The FCC has granted Inmarsat an extension until July 31, 2001 to conduct an IPO. Inmarsat has since requested another extension until December 31, 2001.
A. Inmarsat Must Comply with Every ORBIT Act Privatization Criteria
The term "consistent with" means that Inmarsat is required to meet every privatization criteria. If Congress did not intend to require Inmarsat to comply with all of the privatization criteria, it would have clearly expressed that intent.
In recently determining that New Skies Satellites, N.V. ("New Skies") has privatized "consistent with" the ORBIT Act, the FCC properly assessed New Skies’ compliance with every applicable privatization criteria. Only after determining that New Skies had met each and every privatization criteria did the FCC find that New Skies was in compliance with the ORBIT Act. Inmarsat should not be held to any lesser standard.
Moreover, Inmarsat’s status as an international provider of MSS further complicates the priority and preemptive access problem. The NTIA or FCC must assess how much of Inmarsat’s capacity will be available to U.S. maritime and aviation safety service providers and whether the many regulatory authorities to which Inmarsat is subject will permit such access. It is unclear how Inmarsat can comply with numerous nations’ priority and preemptive access requirements simultaneously. These issues are complicated by Inmarsat’s inability to distinguish between U.S. and other nations’ traffic on a real-time basis. The NTIA and the FCC must ask whether a portion of the spectrum will be ear-marked "U.S. Only" so it is known what to preempt, or whether U.S. and non-U.S. traffic will be interleaved in the same portion so that preemption would result in transfer of a number of narrow slots rather than blocks of spectrum. When Inmarsat begins to provide service openly in the U.S. market without restriction, it may be unclear how to apply and enforce different regulations imposed by different governments.
Therefore, based on the foregoing, Motient urges the President to incorporate the views expressed herein in his Report to Congress on the ORBIT Act.
MOTIENT SERVICES INC.
/s/ David S. Konczal /s/ Lon C. Levin (dsk)
|Bruce D. Jacobs
David S. Konczal
2300 N Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
|Lon C. Levin
Vice President and Regulatory Counsel
MOTIENT SERVICES INC.
10802 Park Ridge Boulevard
Reston, Virginia 20191
May 3, 2001