Acting on a letter filed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the FCC issued a public notice late last Thursday seeking comment on NTIA’s proposal that the FCC obtain additional information and certifications from applicants for certain international authorizations.  NTIA believes that the changes would speed “Team Telecom” review of national security, law enforcement, foreign policy or trade concerns associated with such applications. 

The Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Departments ofJustice, Homeland Security, Defense, Commerce, and State are included among the Executive Branch members of Team Telecom.  As part of its review of applications for international Section 214 authority, submarine cable landing licenses, satellite earth station authorizations, and Section 310(b) requests for declaratory ruling involving foreign ownership, the FCC requests feedback from Team Telecom. That group of agencies, in turn, solicits additional information directly from the applicants that goes beyond the scope of what the FCC requires under its application procedures. Typically, a Team Telecom information request covers corporate structure, shareholders, relationships with foreign entities, financial status, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.  If data on a particular application or a proposed transaction raises national security or law enforcement concerns, Team Telecom will negotiate an agreement with the applicants to mitigate these concerns.  The FCC will also condition its grant on the parties’ compliance with any agreement reached with the Team Telecom agencies.

To expedite this process, and to “ensure that the relevant departments and agencies have sufficient information to review an application promptly upon receiving the request for input” from the FCC, the NTIA letter asks the FCC to “require certain information to be included in or with each application in which there is reportable foreign ownership.”  While requesting enactment of FCC rules that focus on the collection of corporate, financial, foreign ownership and other information specified above, the NTIA recommended that any rules adopted by the FCC should also provide “sufficient flexibility for the Commission to prescribe, and, as necessary, modify the specific questions posed” to the applicants.  The NTIA letter also proposes a certification requirement in which “all applicants agree to several of the most routine national security and law enforcement mitigation measures in their initial application.”  Among others, mitigation measures covered in the proposed certification would include compliance with applicable provisions of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act and establishment of a point of contact within the United States for “the execution of lawful requests and/or legal process.”  Setting a May 23 deadline for the filing of comments, the FCC specified that any responses it receives “will help inform the drafting of a notice of proposed rulemaking,” which will provide further opportunities for public input.