On Friday, April 4, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order (“Order”) on Establishing the Committee for Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Sector (“the Committee,” in the Order), formalizing the interagency working group known as “Team Telecom.” The Committee will assist the FCC with its public interest review of applications and licenses for national security and law enforcement concerns related to foreign participation in the telecommunications services sector.
The Committee’s main functions will be to (i) review applications and licenses for risks to national security and law enforcement interests; and (ii) respond to any risks by recommending to the Commission how it should act on those applications and licenses. The Committee’s members are composed of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General (chair of the Committee), and the head of any other executive department or agency, or any agency to the President, as the President determines appropriate. The Order details the duties of Committee members, as well as the list of advisors who will assist the Committee in its review and may object to recommendations except for unconditional approval or approval conditioned on mitigation measures.
Committee Application and License Review Process – The Committee shall review and assess applications to determine whether granting a license or transferring a license pose a risk to the national security or law enforcement interests of the United States. Upon referral by the Commission, the Committee shall conduct an initial review of an application, from which point the Committee has 120 days to determine any associated risks or if a second assessment is necessary, which will be conducted within 90 days after that determination. The Committee may also review existing licenses to identify any additional or new risks to national security or law enforcement interests.
Threat Analysis by the Direction of National Intelligence – For each license or application reviewed by the Committee, the Director of National Intelligence (“DNI) must produce a written assessment of any threat to national security interests of the United States posed by granting the application or maintaining the license within 30 days of a determination.
Requests for Information – The Committee may seek information from applicants, licensees, and any other entity as needed at any time throughout the process. Information submitted to the Committee and analysis concerning such information shall not be disclosed beyond Committee Member entities and Committee Advisor entities, except as appropriate and consistent with procedures governing the handling of classified or otherwise privileged or protected information.
Recommendations by the Committee to the Commission – With respect to applications under review, the Committee will either (1) issue no recommendation and therefore no objection to the application; (2) recommend that the FCC deny the application; or (3) recommend grant or transfer of the license contingent on compliance with mitigation measures. For licenses under review, the Commission may recommend the FCC modify the license to include certain compliance conditions, recommend the FCC revoke the license, or take no action. The Order details the process for reaching consensus.
Mitigation of Risk and Monitoring – The Committee may recommend that the Commission condition the granting or transfer of a license on compliance with any mitigation measures. Any mitigation measure shall be based on written risk-based analysis and monitored by the Commission. Committee Member entities shall report to the Committee any material noncompliance and may recommend the Commission to take a certain action.
Implementation – The Order details the specific Committee implementation requirements. Within 90 days from the date of the Order, the Committee Members shall enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) among themselves and with the DNI describing their plan to implement and execute the Order. The Committee shall review the implementation of the Order and provide an annual report to the President with recommendations for relevant policy, administrative or legislative proposals.
Chairman Pai released a statement applauding the Order, and stated that the Commission now “will move forward to conclude [its] own pending rulemaking on reform of the foreign ownership review process.”
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