At its September 30, 2021 Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) unanimously adopted a Second Report and Order in IB Docket No. 16-155 requiring applicants with reportable foreign ownership seeking Commission approval for certain applications to answer standardized national security and law enforcement questions (“Standard Questions”) prior to or when filing their applications. The Standard Questions were developed in coordination with the. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Commerce and the United States Trade Representative, which conduct review of national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, or trade policy issues associated with the foreign ownership of the applicants of certain applications filed with the FCC and referred to the agencies. The Standard Questions will apply, following review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) (and issuance of an associated public notice) to the types of applications the Commission generally refers to the Executive Branch, namely applications for international section 214 authorizations and submarine cable landing licenses, applications to assign, transfer control or modify such authorizations and licenses where the applicant has reportable foreign ownership, and all petitions seeking to exceed foreign ownership limits applicable to broadcast or common carrier wireless licenses set forth in Section 310(b) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the “Act”) (47 C.F.R. § 310(b)).

The adoption of Standard Questions is the FCC’s complements several other reforms in the past year to formalize and streamline the FCC and Executive Branch review process conducted  pursuant to Executive Order No. 13913 of April 8, 2020, Establishing the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United State Telecommunications Sector (the “Committee” (commonly referred to as “Team Telecom”)). The Executive Order sets forth procedures and timelines for the Committee to conduct its reviews of referred applications. The Commission’s earlier reforms are detailed in the FCC’s (First) Report and Order  in Docket 16-155 Executive Branch Review Order released October 1, 2020 (and Erratum). As noted in the Second Report and Order, the FCC considered comments filed in response to a Public Notice containing proposed Standard Questions.


Continue Reading FCC Adopts Standard Questions to Facilitate Executive Branch Review of Applications Involving Foreign Interests in Applicants

The FCC released a full agenda for its next Commission Open Meeting, scheduled for September 30, 2021. The agency will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to improve the Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework (“Framework”) and outage reporting. The FCC will next address an Order on Reconsideration to vacate a 2020 order that permits states to lease spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band (designated for public safety use) to third parties for non-public-safety use and a Further NPRM (“FNPRM”) to adopt a nationwide framework for the 4.9 MHz band that would allow for public safety and non-public safety uses. The FCC will also consider adopting a Public Notice that would describe the process for the Office of Engineering and Technology (“OET”) to approve automated frequency coordination (“AFC”) systems, which must be used when performing certain unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz band. Rounding out spectrum issues, the FCC will consider a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) focused on whether there is adequate spectrum to support the Internet of Things (“IoT”). The FCC will then shift its attention to two FNPRMs regarding robocalls. One FNPRM would propose that voice service providers block autodialed calls to numbers on the Public Safety Answering Points (“PSAP”) Do-Not-Call registry and seek alternative ways to protect PSAPs from robocalls and security threats. The other robocall-related FNPRM would propose that gateway providers take action to prevent robocalls that originate outside of the U.S. on U.S. numbers. Next, the FCC will address another NPRM to clarify that Tribal libraries are eligible to receive support under the E-rate program. The FCC will close its meeting by considering a Second Report and Order that would adopt standard questions to be answered by applicants with reportable foreign ownership that seek the Commission’s approval to obtain or modify certain licenses or to complete transactions involving those licenses.

You will find more information about the items on the September meeting agenda after the break:


Continue Reading The FCC’s Packed September Meeting Agenda Includes Focus on IoT Spectrum and Robocall Prevention

The FCC Open Meeting, scheduled for May 20, 2021 and led by Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, includes four agenda items and two enforcement actions. First, the FCC will consider a Third Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Fifth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) that will lower interstate rates and charges, limit international rates, and seek comment on further reforms to the FCC’s calling services rules for inmate calls. Second, the FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) and Order to set Telecommunications Relay Services (“TRS”) Fund compensation rates for video relay service (“VRS”). Third, the FCC will consider a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to combat robocalls by accelerating the date by which small voice service providers that originate an especially large amount of call traffic must implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication framework. Fourth, the FCC will consider an Order on Reconsideration to allow certain affiliates of merging companies that receive model-based and rate-of-return universal service support to be excluded from a “mixed support” merger condition cap.

You will find more details about these items on the May meeting agenda after the break.


Continue Reading FCC’s May Open Meeting Addresses Prison Phone Rates, Video Relay Service Rates, Robocall Restrictions, and Mixed Universal Service Fund Support Transaction Conditions

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

The FCC plans to bar a Chinese telecommunications provider from offering international telecommunications service between the United States and foreign points based on national security concerns at its next open meeting scheduled for May 9, 2019. Under a draft Order released last week, the agency would conclude that China Mobile International USA (“China Mobile USA” or the “Company”) is ultimately controlled by the Chinese government and subject to Chinese government exploitation, influence, and control that could undermine the security and reliability of U.S. networks. The denial of China Mobile USA’s application would mark the first time the FCC has rejected an application to access the U.S. market based on national security concerns raised by the group of federal Executive Branch agencies commonly known as “Team Telecom.” The denial also would represent another salvo in the FCC’s recent efforts to combat network security and corporate espionage issues involving foreign-owned carriers. While the proposed action against China Mobile USA likely will not affect foreign carrier investment or access to the U.S. telecommunications market overall, it serves as a reminder of the barriers foreign-owned telecommunications providers (and particularly those with ties to China) may face when dealing with the FCC.

Continue Reading FCC to Deny Chinese Telecom Provider Access to U.S. Market, Citing National Security Concerns

World Global ConnectionsOn October 1, Chairman Wheeler announced that he has circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking among his fellow Commissioners that would seek comment on simplifying the FCC’s foreign ownership approval process for broadcast licensees “by extending the streamlining rules and procedures that currently apply to other classes of licensees to broadcast licensees.” Certainly, the broadcasting community would welcome an updating of the filing and approval process to allow FCC review of applications to proceed on a more streamlined basis. But, unfortunately, FCC review is only part of the story when there is foreign ownership, and it is quite often the smaller part for many FCC authorization holders, which frustrates, at the end of the day, the Chairman’s goal of better adapting the filing and review process to the current business environment.

Continue Reading O’Rielly Paints Team Telecom As an “Inextricable Black Hole” for Applicants, but Will His Call for Reform Fare Better?

On September 16, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”) against PTT Phone Cards, Inc., (“PTT”) for a litany of alleged violations of rules applicable to international telecommunications carriers in general and one applicable to pre-paid calling card providers in particular. In short, the NAL alleges that, for over three years, PTT violated “virtually all of [the] regulatory obligations” applicable to international carriers and one specifically applicable to pre-paid calling card providers. The proposed forfeiture of $493,327 was arrived at through a straightforward application of the Commission’s base forfeiture amounts or penalties that the agency has recently applied for similar violations. While the Commission normally considers mitigating and aggravating factors to adjust penalties downward or upward, in the NAL it did not expressly do so, despite what it called “PTT’s apparent pattern of noncompliance” and “the seriousness, duration, and scope of PTT’s apparent violations.”  Instead, it simply proposed standard penalties for each apparent violation, giving a casebook glimpse into what awaits entities that provide international and/or calling card services without first obtaining necessary FCC authority and without making requisite filings with the Commission, contributions into applicable federal funds, and payments of federal regulatory fees.
Continue Reading Checking the Boxes: FCC Proposes Forfeiture of Half a Million Dollars against International Prepaid Calling Card Provider