In June, the FCC issued a proposed rule to streamline the “Team Telecom” process. As we reported previously, this proposal has been in the works for a long time. Among the most significant developments—one rumored for a while but previously uncertain to appear in the proposed rule—is the concept that Team Telecom should have deadlines for its work.
This crazy concept of a deadline has indeed been incorporated. Under the proposed rule, Team Telecom would have to complete its process within 90 days, with an extension possible only for unusual circumstances.
By way of background, Team Telecom seeks to safeguard national security by reviewing FCC license applications when applicants have a foreign ownership stake of 10% or more (and in certain other circumstances). Team Telecom recommends to the FCC whether to approve the application with or without security conditions, such as commitments by the applicants to make certain data available to the US government from inside the United States.
The Team Telecom process is informal and, critically, has operated without deadlines or other structure. This has given rise to characterizations of Team Telecom as a black box or, worse, a black hole. The FCC’s Chairman, Tom Wheeler acknowledged in June that “this process is necessary, but it’s also flawed.”
The FCC’s proposed rule invited comments on several major features of the rule. These include (i) whether all applications involving 10% foreign ownership should be required to answer a set of standardized Team Telecom questions, and (ii) whether all applications (whether involving foreign ownership or not) should be required to make certain law enforcement and national security certifications. Our prior post outlined these issues.
But the big news—and it’s a bit of an overstatement to call it news, since it was rumored for so long—is that the FCC wants to make Team Telecom finish its business in a set period of time, something most regulators already have to do. This will be welcome to virtually all those in the private sector who interface with Team Telecom and the FCC.