FCC Releases Proposed Changes To Foreign Ownership Review Process
June 27, 2016 at 4:30 AM (PT)
The FCC has released its proposed changes to the foreign ownership review process, based on recommendations from the NTIA. The notice of proposed rulemaking includes a requirement that applicants with reportable foreign ownership to provide information on ownership, network operations, and related matters at the time they file their applications, rather than making the Executive Branch seek out the information itself; a certification requirement for all applicants, with or without foreign ownership, to certify to certain mitigation provisions when they file their applications; and a 90-day time frame for Executive Branch review, with an additional one-time 90-day extension "in rare circumstances."
Chairman TOM WHEELER said, "Completing review of an application referred for Executive Branch review takes, on average, 250 days ... We need to do better than 250 days. That’s why, for the last two years, the Commission has been working with the Executive Branch and industry on ways to improve the process. We have identified obvious flaws that could be improved ... Should the proposals be adopted, the process will be more predictable and transparent, which will work better for the Commission, for the Executive Branch, for the applicants, and, most important, ensure that new infrastructure and services offerings are made available faster to consumers."
Commissioner MIKE O'RIELLY said, "I’m pleased to support this proposal to set a definitive process that would bring more certainty and transparency to the review of applications involving foreign ownership, all without harming national security. Too often today, these applications are lost in the black hole of the 'Team Telecom' review process, delaying or preventing U.S. companies from accessing new capital and opportunities or, even worse, leaving their applications in the ether for years, as Commissioner PAI stated. As Commissioner CLYBURN indicated, the current process is so bad that some parties avoid it altogether as a matter of course,by foreclosing any consideration of foreign investment. The reforms recommended in this item would go a long way toward clearing out any unnecessary roadblocks between American businesses and new investors."
Commissioner AJIT PAI voiced a concern that "Certain suggestions (in the proposed rules) could increase applicants’ obligations beyond current legal requirements or could be counterproductive to our streamlining efforts," and extends the certification process to transactions not currently subject to Team Telecom review. "This proposal seems to directly contradict the purpose of this streamlining initiative. It will increase, not decrease, the regulatory burdens placed on companies and the amount of paperwork they are required to fill out."
Supporting the changes, Commissioner JESSICA ROSENWORCEL added, "It is clear that the communications industry is facing an increasingly complex future -- with services converging and competition no longer fenced in by traditional geographic borders. At the same time, the process we use at the Commission to assess foreign ownership interests has grown more opaque. This is not right -- and not fair to the growing number of applicants requiring input regarding foreign investment in communications."
And Commissioner MIGNON CLYBURN said, "Like most, I believe there is always room for improvement in any undertaking, and as part of the Chairman’s Process Reform initiative, Commission staff has been working diligently with the Executive Branch agencies for over two years to strike the proper balance. This NPRM, the product of their commendable work, outlines significant proposals aimed at injecting increased efficiency and transparency into this necessary and required review process."