During the FCC’s monthly open meeting last Friday, the agency’s commissioners voted unanimously to launch proceedings on proposed rules that would impose a 90-day “shot clock” on Team Telecom review of applications for certain international authorizations that include Section 310(b) requests for declaratory ruling involving foreign ownership. 

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) corresponds with a recent request by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) asking the FCC to require additional information and certifications from applicants to speed the Team Telecom review process.  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 international Section 214 authority, submarine cable landing licenses, satellite earth station authorizations, and 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.  Noting that the Team Telecom review process takes an average of 250 days to complete, the NPRM proposes to reduce that timeframe to 90 days and to allow “an additional, one-time 90 day extension in rare circumstances.”  As requested by NTIA, the proposed rules would 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.  The NPRM also solicits comment on NTIA’s proposal to require all international service applicants, regardless of their level of foreign ownership, to “certify to certain mitigation provisions” when they file their applications with the FCC.  Comment is also sought on recommendations to further streamline the application review process and on the question of “whether there are some categories of applications that should not be referred” for Team Telecom review. 

Citing complaints from applicants “that it’s too hard to find information about the status of applications and that the review process takes too long,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters, “we need to do better.”  As he commended the FCC and the NTIA for “initiating a proceeding aimed at providing more efficiency and transparency for companies planning transactions,” Scott Bergmann, the vice president of regulatory affairs at wireless association CTIA, asserted that “a timely and well-tailored Team Telecom review process is a necessity and priority for the industry.”