Comments filed late last week by wireless carriers, broadcasters and satellite firms depict strong support for proposed FCC rules that would impose a 90-day “shot clock” on Team Telecom review of applications for the grant or transfer of certain international authorizations that include Section 310(b) requests for declaratory ruling involving foreign ownership.
By a unanimous vote on June 24, the FCC launched rulemaking proceedings with the goal of expediting the Team Telecom review process, which now takes an average of 250 days to complete. Team Telecom consists of members of various Executive Branch agencies that include the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. As part of its review of applications for the grant or transfer of international Section 214 authority, submarine cable landing licenses, satellite earth station authorizations, and for Section 310(b) requests, the FCC requests feedback from Team Telecom, which, in turn, solicits additional information directly from the applicants that goes beyond the scope of what the FCC requires. In addition to reducing the Team Telecom review period to 90 days with certain exceptions, the proposed rules would also require applicants with reportable foreign ownership to provide ownership, network operation, and other information typically requested by Team Telecom at the time they file their applications with the FCC.
On behalf of its members, the U.S. Telecom Association (USTA) endorsed the proposed 90-day time frame as “a reasonable balance between ensuring adequate time for review and avoiding needless and potentially costly delay in processing applications.” Noting that the rulemaking notice did not include a proposal for the FCC “to establish a time period for its own preliminary review to ensure that an application is acceptable for filing,” USTA suggested that “a commitment to conduct such review in a timely manner would further enhance the transparency and timeliness of the process.”
While voicing general support for the FCC’s goals, Verizon Communications cautioned the agency against imposing “new obligations that will unduly burden applicants.” Verizon also told the FCC it should “additionally work to narrow the types of license applications it refers to the Executive Branch to just those instances where there is a cognizable foreign interest concern.”
Meanwhile, as the Satellite Industry Association, EchoStar, and Hughes Network Systems voiced strong support for the rulemaking notice and its stipulation that the FCC “does not, and will not, refer non-common carrier earth station applications for Executive Branch review,” the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and other broadcast groups recommended certain methods of streamlining the Team Telecom review process for broadcasters. Along that vein, the NAB and its supporters emphasized that broadcasters would be well served if the FCC (1) developed “particularized disclosure requirements as part of the instant rulemaking proceeding,” and (2) modified disclosure requirements “to remove any that are irrelevant, inapplicable or duplicative in the broadcast context.”