Commission OK’s A New Foreign Ownership Review Plan


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite “technical difficulties” that prevented the public from viewing the FCC’s virtual September Open Meeting, which were resolved, the FCC moved forward with the adoption of a key piece of regulatory action that it says will bring “improvements to the transparency and timeliness of the cross-agency review process for applications from companies with foreign ownership seeking to participate in the U.S. telecommunications market.”

These changes formalize the long-standing “Team Telecom” review process by establishing firm timeframes for the Executive Branch’s agencies to complete their review of applications and petitions for declaratory ruling that the Commission refers to them.

The changes to the FCC’s rules and procedures adopted on Sept. 30 are consistent with an April 4, 2020 White House Executive Order that established the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector.

The new rules and procedures adopted today stem from proposals in a June 2016 NPRM  as well as actions taken in the Executive Order and “will provide greater certainty for applicants, facilitate beneficial foreign investment, support the provision of new services and infrastructure by U.S. authorization holders and licensees in a more timely
manner, and provide for more effective review of applications and petitions that raise national security or law enforcement concerns.”

The Report and Order directs the Commission to continue to refer to the Executive Branch
Committee for review applications such as those to transfer control of a license to a carrier with reportable foreign ownership—subject to certain exclusions.

It also requires parties to provide answers to a standardized set of national security and law enforcement questions directly to the Committee at the same time as the parties file their applications with the Commission, and provides for a 120-day initial review period followed by a discretionary 90-day additional assessment.

Further, it requires applicants to make particular certifications to help protect national
security and law enforcement interests.

The new rules ensure, the Commission says, that it continues to receive the benefit of Executive Branch agency views as part of its public interest review of an application or petition. ‘The new rules and procedures will also add transparency to the process while improving the ability of the Executive Branch agencies to expeditiously and efficiently review referred applications and petitions.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement, “In short, our actions today will provide for a more efficient and effective review of foreign ownership applications.  They will also improve our teamwork by aligning the Commission’s rules with the reforms adopted by the Executive Branch earlier this year.  And they will help us strike the right balance, encouraging beneficial foreign investment and ownership in the U.S. communications sector while limiting or barring transactions that could impair the national interest.”