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
A new report from the Wall Street Journal on FCC robocall enforcement set off a minor scrum over the effectiveness of the FCC’s TCPA efforts under Chairman Pai. The report claimed that, despite recent eye-popping enforcement actions and policy proposals aimed at curbing unwanted calls, the FCC collected only a fraction of those fines so far. Out of $208.4 million in fines issued since 2015 for violations of the FCC’s robocalling and associated telemarketing rules, the agency collected just $6,790, or less than one-hundredth of one percent. None of the over $200 million in robocall-related fines imposed under Chairman Pai’s leadership have been collected to date, including the record-setting $120 million penalty issued last year against a robocalling platform and its owner for placing over 96 million “spoofed” marketing robocalls.
This report prompted commentary from Commissioner Rosenworcel, who tweeted that these “measly efforts” were “not making a dent in this problem” and called for carriers to provide free call blocking tools to consumers. In our view, however, the report really doesn’t relate to the vigor – or alleged lack thereof – of FCC robocall enforcement efforts. Instead, the small amount of assessed fines that are actually collected starkly demonstrates the internal and external hurdles faced by the FCC, which impact all types of enforcement actions, not just robocalls. The report likely will rekindle Congressional criticism of FCC enforcement processes and calls for more systematic solutions to the problem of unwanted calls.