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For decades, parts of the Federal government have examined transactions that introduce and increase foreign investment in United States telecommunications businesses. Transactions that implicate reviews by the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security (collectively, “Team Telecom”) and/or by the Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) can face procedural hurdles and delays

For years, there have been critiques about the lack of procedures surrounding the review, by a group of Executive Branch agencies commonly referred to as “Team Telecom”, of applications before the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) for licenses and transaction approvals involving foreign ownership, including the absence of timeframes for completing reviews. The FCC tried to implement limited changes within its jurisdiction by launching a rulemaking, but that never progressed to a conclusion. Now, by Executive Order (“EO”) on April 4, 2020, President Trump established a framework to govern such reviews and clearly include reviews of existing licenses and authorizations even where there are no current mitigations. There are still a lot of unknowns regarding the new “Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector” (the “Committee”). It is too soon to know whether the Committee will bring a welcome measure of regularity to a previously unshackled process or will prove to be an even greater bane to applicants and licensees than the Team Telecom process its work will replace.

Continue Reading President Formalizes Executive Agency Review of FCC Applications and Licenses; Quick Action on FCC License Revocation

On Friday, March 27, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau (“Bureau”) granted Onvoy d/b/a Inteliquent a temporary and limited waiver of the Commission’s rules that treats competitive local exchange carriers with an interstate terminating-to-originating traffic ratio of at least 6:1 as engaging in access stimulation. The Bureau found that the extraordinary circumstances accompanying the current COVID-19-related public health crisis leading to increased conferencing traffic warranted a company specific waiver, which temporarily exempts Inteliquent from the requirement, if it exceeds the 6:1 ratio due to traffic from its existing customers (as of March 17, the date of Inteliquent’s petition for waiver), of assuming the financial responsibility for any applicable intermediate access provider’s terminating charges for any traffic between a local exchange carrier’s terminating end office or equivalent and the associated access tandem switch. However the Bureau stresses that the waiver was limited to Inteliquent and expressly rejected a request that the waiver extend to all conferencing traffic.

Continue Reading Coronavirus Increases Use of Conferencing Services Leading to Company-Specific Access Stimulation Rule Waiver

On March 3, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) released its Report and Order and Order of Proposed Modification (FCC 20-22) (respectively, the “C-Band Order” and the “Proposed License Modification”) realigning the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band in the contiguous United States and proposing to modify most of the satellite, earth station, and fixed service licenses in the Band. If one sorts out the significant deadlines established by the C-Band Order leading up to the target date for the auction of the 3700-3980 MHz range, namely December 8, 2020, and the transition of incumbent space station and earth station operations and fixed service stations which must be completed in the auction’s wake, the heavy lifting required before the auction proceeds is plain. In the attached advisory, these deadlines are discussed in some detail.  Here, they are presented in abridged fashion.

For more information, register here for our April 2 C-Band Update webinar.

Continue Reading Scheduling the Race to the “C-Band” Auction

On March 25, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission announced a one-month postponement of the 3.5 GHz auction (3550-3650 GHz) in the Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”), a.k.a. Auction 105. The Commission cited the need “to protect the health and safety of Commission staff during the auction and [the ancillary benefit” that parties have additional time to prepare to participate.”  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reiterated the agency’s commitment to hold the auction this summer. The band is the first in the so-called mid-band, a range of spectrum seen as critical to the roll out of 5G wireless applications. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly tweeted today that a further delay would be unlikely absent absolutely compelling circumstances. The start of the auction has been postponed to July 23, 2020, (from June 25, 2020), and the new short-form application filing window is April 23 through May 7, 2020.

The Commission also postponed indefinitely its Auction 106, which was set to begin April 28, 2020, and was selling through competitive bidding construction permits in the FM broadcast service.

Continue Reading FCC Postponing 3.5 GHz Auction on Account of COVID-19; Agency Hopes to Keep 3.7-4.2 GHz Auction on Track

On February 28, 2020, at its Open Meeting, the FCC voted to commence a rulemaking to examine the rebalancing of many technical rules governing the deployment of fixed and certain mobile, unlicensed white space devices in the television bands (in and around the 600 MHz range) to increase opportunities for relatively long-distance connectivity in rural and underserved areas, such as for wireless broadband solutions or applications associated with the Internet of Things (“IoT”), although there are no application restrictions on white space devices per se. The rule changes are proposed only in those frequencies below TV channel 35, and so exclude the 600 MHz duplex gap and the 600 MHz service band. The text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) was promptly released on March 2. Comments are due 30 days after Federal Register publication with replies due sixty days after publication, which has not yet occurred.

Continue Reading FCC Opens Proceeding to Reinvigorate Opportunities for TV White Space Devices

Following a recent episode on the FCC’s C-Band Proceeding addressing use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum range, Partner Chip Yorkgitis is back to discuss the recently released draft Report and Order, which is expected to be adopted at the FCC’s February 28th meeting. The Order would transition the use of the C-Band to make the

On Thursday, February 6, in a speech at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai outlined his proposal for the realignment of 3.7-4.2 GHz, the so-called C-Band. Later in the day, the FCC website posted a summary of the Chairman’s proposals, and Republican Commissioners Carr and O’Rielly released statements in support of the initiative. A draft order is expected sometime today, February 7, which will fill in a lot of gaps missing from the broad brushstrokes the Chairman outlined.

Continue Reading Pai Offers Highlights of His 3.7-4.2 GHz Band Proposal; Particulars Presently Forthcoming

Our “Tuning into Spectrum” podcast series takes a close look at hot topics and issues in radio spectrum. Recently, in a letter to Senator Kennedy (R-LA), Chairman Pai stated that he intends to conduct a public auction of the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum range (commonly referred to as the C-Band) that would clear 280 megahertz for

On October 7, the Enforcement Bureau (“EB” or “Bureau”) of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) took action to enhance the method by which public safety and enterprise wireless providers file interference complaints and receive initial responses. In a Public Notice, the Bureau announced that a new interference complaint intake portal, which the Bureau sees as a “backstop” when private resolution efforts fail, is now operational for these types of spectrum users. The action was in response to the Commission’s 2015 Field Modernization Order, in which the FCC called on the Bureau to ensure that EB’s field offices respond to radiofrequency interference (“RFI”) complaints filed by public safety and industry users in a timely fashion.

Continue Reading FCC Enforcement Bureau Centralizes Filing of Interference Complaints; Parties Directed to First Exhaust Private Efforts to Resolve Cases of RFI