The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) seeks to refresh the record in a long-dormant 2016 proceeding that sought to lend greater certainty to reviews by the group of Executive Branch agencies informally referred to as “Team Telecom.” As we discussed in a prior post, an April 4, 2020 Executive Order 13913 (“E.O. 13913”) formalized Team Telecom – including naming it, officially, the “Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector.” Despite E.O. 13913 conferring some structure on the Team Telecom review process, many aspects of the review process remain to be developed. Intent on lending a helping hand filling in gaps, the FCC seeks comment on whether and how E.O. 13913 affects the 2016 proceeding proposals. The 2016 proceeding floated some proposals that would be broadly applicable, such as new certifications for all applicants not just those involving disclosable levels of foreign ownership, the usual trigger for Team Telecom review. Consequently all licensed providers may want to assess if this proceeding warrants a close look.

For those interested in participating, comments and replies are due by June 18, 2020 and July 2, 2020, respectively.


Continue Reading Comment Date on Refresh of Team Telecom Reform Proceeding Approaches

In a move spurred by Twitter’s decision to fact-check a pair of President Trump’s tweets, the president recently signed a multi-pronged “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship” with the claimed intention of stopping online platforms from making content moderation decisions that discriminate against particular viewpoints. The President, along with other conservative political figures and commentators, have frequently claimed that social media platforms have used content moderation practices to stifle conservative speech. The Executive Order (“EO”) evokes the First Amendment, calling online platforms the 21st century “public square,” where people go to express and debate different views, and saying the allegedly biased content moderation practices undermine that free expression.

The most controversial aspects of the order are its interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”)—the statutory provision that shields online service providers from liability for user-generated content and the decisions they make about how to moderate that content—and its attempt to prompt the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to adopt regulations further interpreting the law. Reform of Section 230 has been under consideration in Congress for years, with Republicans and Democrats both offering different—and mostly contrary—critiques about how online platforms have failed to act in accordance with the statute while also benefitting from the liability protections.

Other directives in the EO attempt to elicit other parts of the federal government to discipline online platforms for their content moderation practices. Absent Congressional action, the EO’s directives appear to stand on shaky legal ground and are likely to have limited legal impact.  However, the issuance of the EO alone may be unlawful, at least according to a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the EO filed with the U.S. District Court in D.C. by the Center for Democracy & Technology (“CDT”). According to the complaint, the EO violates the First Amendment, which strictly limits the government’s ability to abridge speech, by retaliating against Twitter for exercising its right to comment on the President’s statements and because it “seeks to curtail and chill the constitutionally protected speech of all online platforms and individuals” by demonstrating the government’s willingness to retaliate against those who criticize the government.


Continue Reading Section 230 Executive Order Strikes Back at Twitter, But Legal Impact Likely to be Limited

At its April Open Meeting, the FCC approved a Fifth Report and Order (“R&O”) in the Spectrum Frontiers Proceeding that adopted sharing rules in two settings. The new rules will allow the federal government to deploy, in limited circumstances, additional station sites in spectrum to be auctioned for flexible mobile and fixed use in the 37.6-38.6 GHz frequency range (the “Upper 37 GHz Band”). The rules also will allow fixed satellite service (“FSS”) operators to individually license earth stations in the 50.4-51.4 GHz band (the “50 GHz Band”) while the FCC considers whether spectrum in the 50 GHz Band should also be auctioned for flexible mobile and fixed use. By acting now on these matters, the Commission intends to help provide Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (“UMFUS”) providers with certainty regarding their potential future use of the spectrum before the auctions commence.

Continue Reading FCC Adopts Limited Sharing Arrangements in the Upper 37 GHz and 50 GHz Bands

As Kelley Drye reported in an earlier post, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving quickly on efforts to expedite review of certain FCC applications, including, but not limited to, Section 214 and submarine cable-related applications, by the Executive Branch agencies known as Team Telecom.  In a May 2016 request to the FCC, the

World Global ConnectionsThe Federal Communications Commission (“Commission” or “FCC”) is looking to jump start the initial steps of the Executive Branch process of reviewing certain applications, including Section 214 and submarine cable-related applications.  In a May 2016 request from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”), NTIA proposed rule changes designed to facilitate more rapid opening stage review by the Executive Branch agencies known as Team Telecom (which includes the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, Commerce, State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and United States Trade Representative) of certain applications.  Toward that end, last Friday, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) soliciting comments on rules to expand the information required when certain applications are filed.  The proposed rules would potentially have broad applicability, including some rules extending to applications lacking traditional levels of reportable foreign ownership.  Both domestic and international carriers and submarine cable operators should review the NPRM to determine if participation in the proceeding would advance their interests.  Comments and reply comments will be due, respectively, within 30 and 45 days of NPRM publication in the Federal Register.

Continue Reading FCC Proposes Rules to Expedite Initial Stages of the Team Telecom Application Review Process

World Global ConnectionsThe “Team Telecom” review process of applications involving foreign ownership has long endured a reputation for excessive length and opacity. It appears change may be on the horizon.  The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) filed a letter (NTIA Letter) on May 10, 2016 with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) requesting the Commission require applicants for certain authorizations, including international 214 authorizations and transfers, section 310 license ownership rulings, submarine cable landing licenses and satellite earth station authorizations, submit additional information and certifications with their applications.  NTIA asserts that submitting this information and certifications upfront will streamline the Executive Branch agency review process.  Today, those reviews are undertaken by the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, Commerce, State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and United States Trade Representative (Team Telecom).

In response to the NTIA Letter, the Commission released a Public Notice late last week seeking comments on NTIA’s request.  The Commission suggested that any comments received would inform the Commission’s planned formal rulemaking proceeding.  The FCC seeks comments on or before Monday, May 23, 2016.


Continue Reading NTIA Suggests Steps to Expedite Executive Review of Applications for Section 214 and Submarine Cable Act Authority; FCC Seeks Comment

funding_opportunity_v1r1The Administration continues to drive efforts to spur broadband deployment across the country and to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable broadband service.  Yesterday afternoon, President Obama announced ConnectALL, an effort aimed at connecting 20 million more Americans to broadband by 2020.

This announcement builds on the successes of ConnectED, the White