63. Position Paper for the United States Delegation1


Rome—February 10, 1964

The European Conference on Satellite Communication, composed of 22 European Governments, has invited the United States and Canada to meet with it in Rome for several days beginning February 10. The agenda for the meeting, proposed by the European Conference and accepted by the United States, is as follows:

Functions, structure, and financing of the world organization;
Planning and negotiating machinery required in the preparatory period;
Design and operation of the system in the preliminary and subsequent stages;
Problems connected with provision of equipment, procurement of services, exchange of technical information;
Timetable for the preliminary and subsequent stages of the system, including coordination with cable systems;
Date and composition of the conference of interested governments.

I. United States Objectives

The basic objectives of the United States in the field of satellite communication have been defined in a number of public policy statements. The most important of these are the President’s policy statement of July 24, 1961, the Communication Satellite Act of 1962, Part D of the US-sponsored General Assembly Resolution 1721 (XVI), an Aide-Mémoire of June 26, 1962, a paper distributed to selected delegations at the ITU Space Communication Conference held in October, 1963, and the President’s statement on the results of that conference. The basic objectives of the United States, as set forth in these statements, are: [Page 121]

To get a communications satellite system operating as soon as possible;
To have this system reflect US political and technological leadership;
To extend the system to provide global coverage with nondiscriminatory access at the earliest practicable date;
To direct care and attention to providing the services of the system to economically less developed countries and areas as well as those more highly developed;
To establish the system as part of an improved global communications network, to reflect the benefits of this new technology in both quality of services and charges, and to make efficient use of the frequency spectrum;
To have, for economic, political, and technical reasons, a single global commercial system rather than competing systems;
To provide an opportunity for participation in the system by other countries, both through investment, with consequent participation in design, ownership and management, and through leasing of channels or other arrangements; and
To give the qualified industries of participating countries an opportunity to compete for supplying satellites, launchers and other equipment for the system as it is expanded and developed.

These objectives will set the framework for United States participation at the Rome meeting.

II. Background

This is the first major meeting with the European Conference on Satellite Communications in which the United States will be an official participant. It marks an important stage in the development of international arrangements for satellite communication. However, the meeting is not a negotiation and the delegation is not authorized to negotiate or enter into any agreements. The principal purpose of the meeting is to permit the parties to explore views and objectives, both on the subject of definitive arrangements for satellite communication and on the question of interim arrangements. These explorations look towards continuing discussion with European countries culminating, hopefully, in the negotiation and conclusion of organizational agreements.

The United States is the only country that has developed and launched communication satellites. The Soviet Union is presumed to have the technology, and could probably launch communication satellites in a short period of time. It will be several years at best before any European countries, acting either individually or in combination, can launch communication satellites with their own boosters, and many [Page 122] years before they would be in a position to launch a system competitive with that of the United States.

The United States is in a position to move forward rapidly with the development of a communication satellite system. This development will fall roughly into three stages. First, the Communication Satellite Corporation plans to establish a limited “experimental/operational” capability over the North Atlantic in 1965. Work will go forward also on various medium altitude systems. Second, there will be a basic global system. Under present plans, the choice of basic system will be made in September, 1965. If the Corporation opts for synchronous satellites the “experimental/operational” systems will be extended to provide it. If not, it will be a medium altitude system. In any event the United States anticipates that the basic system, which will have a global capability, will come into being in 1966–67. And finally, there will be a fully developed global system of communication satellites. This will have to evolve over a period of years. Although technical developments may thus be divided into three roughly defined stages, it is convenient to think of organizational arrangements in terms of two stages: first, arrangements for an interim period, and second, a definitive organizational structure designed to accommodate a broader range of international interests. Both stages are on the agenda for discussion at the Rome meeting.

The primary goal of the United States at the Rome meeting will be to explore ways of obtaining participation by other nations in each of these stages on a basis that is compatible with United States satellite communications objectives, and particularly in such a way as not to delay the schedule on which the CSC is now operating.

As to definitive arrangements, the United States will necessarily have to discuss these in rather generalized terms because our thinking is still not very far advanced. It will be important, however, to explore in as much detail as possible the ideas of individual European countries and the Conference so that, as we develop our own proposals over the coming months, the United States will be able to make maximum use of its bargaining power, which may well be at its peak during the early years of the system when we have a monopoly of the boosters and of communication technology. The European countries know that the United States will dominate the system for the next few years, and it is likely that a primary interest on their part will be to assure that this country does not continue to monopolize the system indefinitely. With some variations in attitude from country to country, the European delegations are likely to press hard for assurances on the ultimate organizational structure. This may be the price that they demand for permitting the Corporation to manage the interim system.

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As to interim arrangements, for a commercially viable system it is desirable that there be some form of European participation.2 Originally both the Corporation and the United States Government thought exclusively in terms of European participation through capital investment in the system from the beginning, either on behalf of the Conference or by several individual European countries. As the Corporation’s plans matured and the prospect of an “experimental/operational” capability in 1965 emerged, a number of European countries expressed interest in participating at this stage by leasing channels rather than by making a capital investment. Recently, at a technical meeting in Karlsruhe, European interest in capital investment from the beginning has again emerged, largely as a result of an indication that the UK would be prepared to invest. Investment and channel leasing are not mutually exclusive; discussions and negotiations could proceed on both forms of arrangement simultaneously.

It is obvious that arrangements for rental of channels in the 1965 limited capability would be simpler to negotiate and would retain maximum managerial control in the United States. At the same time, if a number of European countries indicate that they may be prepared to make an investment commitment now in the over-all CSC program, we will want to discuss interim organizational arrangements permitting such investment. These arrangements would be somewhat more complicated, but they would have to be simple enough to operate efficiently and to be compatible with the over-riding United States interest in developing a system as soon as possible.

The United States has on several occasions asked the Soviet Union if it wished to discuss a communication satellite system. An Aide-Mémoire in February 1963 suggested exploratory talks, there were probes at the ITU Space Communication Conference, Ambassador Kohler approached Gromyko on the subject in November, and approaches were made in December at the UN. The Soviet Union has not responded affirmatively to any of these. The Europeans are likely to ask for our views on Soviet participation in a communication satellite system. The delegation is authorized to point out that the United States is committed to seek a single global system, and that this implies Soviet participation as a desirable objective. However, the United States will be guided by the principle that the development of the system should not be delayed by the unwillingness of [Page 124] the Soviet Union to participate, or by unproductive negotiations with the Soviet Union.

[Here follows Section III, Agenda Items.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, TEL 6. Limited Official Use. This position paper, prepared for a meeting with members of the European Conference on Satellite Communications and Canadian officials, is an enclosure to a letter from Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Harland Cleveland to Legal Adviser Abram Chayes.
  2. Telegram 3775 from Paris, February 7, reported that the French, for example, “made much of point that GOF [Government of France] could not and would not treat communications satellite problems as solely telecommunications affairs. Emphasized repeatedly that strong national interests are involved.” (Ibid.)