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Adoption of a Blanket Licensing Regime: A Big Step Forward on Improving Broadband Access

Adoption of a Blanket Licensing Regime: A Big Step Forward on Improving Broadband Access

An important benefit of satellite broadband service is that it is relatively quick for users within the coverage of a broadband satellite to receive service because there are existing facilities and the satellite broadband user terminal can be installed in a matter of hours. Potential consumers of satellite broadband service in many countries, however, will not realize this benefit due to the time consuming and burdensome user terminal licensing process imposed by some regulators.  For example, some countries require satellite broadband providers to obtain an individual license for each user terminal and/or to register (and keep current) the geographic location for that user terminal. Unfortunately, individual licensing becomes even more burdensome when hundreds of thousands or even millions of these user terminals are in use, potentially delaying access to broadband service.

A more efficient and cost-effective approach is called “blanket licensing”.  When blanket licensing is used for user terminals, the time, expense and administrative burdens are significantly reduced. Broadband satellite providers only need to obtain a single authorization from the regulator (as opposed to individual licenses for each terminal).  This means that consumers, businesses and other users are able to get access to satellite broadband service faster than under an individual licensing approach.

This approach has been successfully implemented in a number of countries including the United States.  Most recently, Brazil’s regulator, Anatel, implemented a blanket licensing approach.  In the short time that blanket licensing has been implemented in Brazil, the licensing procedure for KA band VSAT service providers has been dramatically simplified to the point where it is no longer a barrier to the quick deployment of broadband service to Brazilians.  Under the prior licensing approach, it would take nearly a month to obtain licenses for a limited number of VSATs.  With the new blanket licensing approach, broadband service providers can license an unlimited number of VSATs in just a few minutes. Although the Brazilian Satellite industry and government are still working on alternatives to streamline other regulatory provisions, including reducing the license fees, the adoption of a blanket license approach was a big step forward.

Brazil, the United States and other countries that have adopted blanket licensing regimes can serve as a model for licensing user terminals, making broadband services available to users on a more efficient basis.  By enabling the roll out of these services using a more efficient licensing approach, even users in the most rural and remote portions of a country, like the Brazilian Amazon, can quickly benefit from having access to broadband service.