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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

IN 97-20COMMISSION ACTIONJuly 17, 1997

(IB Docket No. 96-111, CC Docket No. 92-23)

Today the Commission released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Further Notice) that seeks additional comment on a framework to allow satellites licensed by other countries to provide services in the United States. In light of the recent conclusion of the WTO Basic Telecom Agreement, today's Further Notice asks for comment on how to revise our market access rules in a manner consistent with that Agreement and with the goal of promoting a competitive satellite market in the United States. A competitive global satellite market will provide U.S. customers with more service options, better quality and lower rates.

The issue of opening the U.S. satellite market to non-U.S.-licensed satellites was first raised in a May 14, 1996, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice). In that Notice the FCC proposed to examine whether U.S. satellites have "effective competitive opportunities" in foreign markets before allowing a satellite licensed by a foreign country to serve the United States (the "ECO-Sat" test).

The WTO Basic Telecom Agreement, which takes effect on January 1, 1998, and its framework, the General Agreement of Trade Services (GATS), should fundamentally improve conditions of competition in satellite services worldwide. Forty-nine countries, including the United States and virtually all its major trading partners, made market access commitments under the agreement to open satellite services to competition either on January 1, 1998, or on a phased-in basis.

The FCC seeks comment on various items in today's Further Notice. In particular, the Commission requests comment on the following tentative conclusions:

An ECO-Sat analysis is not required when evaluating whether to permit satellites licensed by WTO members to provide services covered by the United States schedule of commitments under the Agreement within the United States, and between the United States and other WTO members. Rather, opposing parties will have the burden of demonstrating that granting a license poses a very high risk to competition in the United States that could not be cured by conditions placed on the license. In serving the United States, satellites licensed by WTO members will have to meet all the Commission's technical and service rules.

The Commission will retain its proposed ECO-Sat test for satellites licensed by non-WTO members, for intergovernmental organizations, and for services for which the United States has taken an exemption from most-favored-nation obligations under the Agreement. These services are direct-to-home (DTH) television services, direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) television service and digital audio radio service (DARS).

The Commission will continue to consider, in all cases, whether grant of an application to access a non-U.S.-licensed satellite will otherwise serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity, and seeks comment on the factors it should consider in carrying out the Commission's responsibilities given the changing competitive landscape.

Action by the Commission July 17, 1997, by Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 97-252). Chairman Hundt, Commissioners Quello, Ness and Chong, with Commissioner Chong issuing a separate statement.

- FCC -

News Media contacts: Meribeth McCarrick at (202) 418-0256.

International Bureau contacts: William Kirsch at (202) 418-0764, Fern Jarmulnek at (202) 418-0751, or Bob Calaff at (202) 418-0431.