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Foreign-Owned FCC Licenses to be Reviewed, Trump Orders

(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump has ordered that foreign-owned FCC licenses, and future applications for licenses from foreign-based companies, be put under the microscope by a newly established committee that will have the power to revoke or deny licenses.

On April 4, Trump issued an executive order for the formation of the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector; the committee will also be known as Team Telecom. The committee will be headed by Attorney General William Barr, with other members including the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security and a presidential appointee.

The mission of the committee is “to assist the FCC in its public interest review of national security and law enforcement concerns that may be raised by foreign participation in the United States telecommunications services sector,” the order read. This will include the review of applications and licenses to determine potential national security risks. Upon those reviews, the committee will advise the FCC to dismiss, deny or make conditions to any application, or to modify or revoke an existing license. Any review of an existing license must be approved by a majority of the committee.

If no national security risk is raised by an application or existing license, the committee will inform the FCC as such.

For applications, the review process must be completed within 120 days of receiving completed answers from the applicant, unless a secondary assessment is determined necessary, which would allow for an additional 90-day review. For existing licenses, all reviews must be completed in 30 days.

In addition to the heads of the committee, advisers to the committee will include the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Commerce, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the United States Trade Representative, Director of National Intelligence, Administrator of General Services, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and another presidential appointee.

“I applaud the president for formalizing Team Telecom review and establishing a process that will allow the Executive Branch to provide its expert input to the FCC in a timely manner,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Now that the Executive Order has been issued, the FCC will move forward to conclude our own pending rulemaking on reform of the foreign ownership review process.”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also voiced his support for the order as a way of “fixing the incoherent and indefensibly unpredictable review process.”

The full executive order is available online