Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

Harvard Business School Baker Library Historical Collections

Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Communications Satellite Corp. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Communications Satellite Corp.

List of Deals

The Communications Satellite Corporation, or COMSAT, was created in 1962 with the passage of the Communications Satellite Act. COMSAT became incorporated in 1963. The act authorized the formation of a private corporation to administer satellite communications to the United States. COMSAT had responsibility for the development of a global satellite communications system, the acquisition and maintenance of ground stations around the world, and the development of new satellite technologies. The headquarters of the corporation are in Washington, D.C.

COMSAT was created pursuant of national policy, but was not an agency or establishment of the U. S. government; the corporation was financed through public stock issue. A board of directors elected by the company's shareholders and the president of the United States governs COMSAT. Half of the company's shares are owned by major communications companies such as AT&T, ITT, and Western Union, and the public holds the rest.

COMSAT emerged amidst a public controversy staged in a series of congressional hearings from 1961-62. The central issue was whether control over satellite communications in the United States should be in the public or private domain. Public advocates formed an alliance against the privatization of COMSAT; concerned that privatization would strengthen the private sector's control over public airwaves, the advocates called for further public participation in the hearings and for government ownership of satellite communications. Another alliance formed on the other side, led by major communications companies such as RCA and AT&T, proposed a bill that would be in favor of privatization, stating that this industry offered many new business opportunities that would benefit the private sector. Pressure from both sides culminated in the creation of a "government corporation" designed to operate as a private business and yet act in the public interest.

Throughout its history, the often-contradictory interests of private enterprise and the public good have challenged COMSAT; historically, the organization has favored the business side.

In 1964 COMSAT representatives participated in international negotiations that led to the creation of Intelsat, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization. Intelsat is a global satellite network that provides developing nations with access to communications satellites for domestic communications. In 1965 COMSAT launched Early Bird, also known as Intelsat 1, the first commercial communications satellite. Early Bird relayed common carrier network traffic, telephone, television, telegraph, and digital data as well as voice-bandwidth analog data such as facsimile and wire photo transmittals. COMSAT laboratories have been responsible for a variety of technical developments in satellite and wireless communications, including coding and transmission, networking and multiple access, space-qualified electronics and power sources, antennas, and many others.

Harvard Business School Harvard Business School Baker Library Histrorical Collections