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FCC Streamlines Foreign Ownership Application

FCC
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—The FCC this week adopted a baseline set of national security and law enforcement questions for companies with foreign ownership seeking to participate in the U.S. telecommunications market. The questions will generally apply to companies submitting applications to provide international telecommunications services, deploy submarine cables, operate certain wireless and broadcast facilities, and assign or transfer control of such licenses. 

The commission voted on the new questions following a petition filed by broadcast TV stations asking the FCC to clarify their April 2021 order requiring broadcasters to disclose when leased programming is supplied by foreign governments. The April ruling came after reports of programming provided by Russia being aired on broadcasters during the 2020 election cycle and growing concerns over Russian propaganda seeking to influence the election.   

The commission said the new questions will “provide applicants with greater regulatory certainty and a more streamlined and transparent process.” The Commission will make the standard questions available on the FCC’s website so that applicants will be able to prepare their responses to the Executive Branch’s Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector (Committee) much earlier in the application process than they do now. 

The commission said in a statement:
"This action facilitates the provision of new services and infrastructure in the United States while continuing to ensure that the Commission receives the benefit of the views of the Committee as part of its public interest review of applications.  Applicants with foreign ownership will provide answers to the standard questions directly to the Committee prior to or at the same time they file their applications with the FCC.  The Committee currently asks applicants to answer national security and law enforcement questions after the FCC refers applications to the Committee. 

The standard questions are based upon the types of questions the Committee currently asks applicants.  The questions will seek applicant information on corporate structure and shareholders, relationships with foreign entities including governments, financial condition and circumstances, compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and business and operational information such as services to be provided and network infrastructure.”

Adoption of the standard questions marks the final step in implementing the FCC’s October 2020 Executive Branch Review Order, in which it adopted rules and procedures to facilitate a more streamlined and transparent process for coordinating the referral of applications with foreign ownership to the Committee for its views on any national security and law enforcement issues the application may raise.