Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) unanimously adopted an order formalizing the referral and review process associated with “Team Telecom”—the group of national security and law enforcement agencies responsible for assessing foreign investment in U.S. telecommunications, submarine cable licensees, and broadcast licensees. The order adopts rules and procedures that will govern what has long been an informal process at the agency, both in connection with the issuance of such licenses and with respect to transfers of control.

The FCC’s action is consistent with the agency’s increased focus on, and involvement in, questions around national security and foreign investment in the telecommunications and media sectors. This attention to national security at the FCC is likely to continue regardless of the outcome of the election in November, given that both Republicans and Democrats at the agency have supported the agency’s heightened role in national security matters under its jurisdiction.


Continue Reading FCC Formalizes Foreign Investment Reviews; More National Security Actions Likely to Follow

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission circulated a draft order that will formalize its coordination with what has been known as “Team Telecom”—the national security review process for foreign investments in U.S. telecommunications companies.  The draft order, which the FCC will consider for adoption at its September 30 Open Meeting, includes rules and procedures governing what has long been an informal process.

The FCC’s draft order adopts rules consistent with an April 4, 2020 Executive Order that rebranded the group of executive branch authorities long referred to as “Team Telecom” as the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector.  Despite the name change, Team Telecom will largely follow the existing review process; however, the new FCC rules do make a few key changes.  We highlight some of the basic changes below.


Continue Reading FCC Releases Draft Order Formalizing “Team Telecom” Process

In exchange for a stay of the proceedings in both United States v. California and American Cable Association v. Becerra, California has agreed not to enforce its new net neutrality law, SB 822, pending the resolution of Mozilla Corp. v. FCC, the lawsuit challenging the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order (“Order”).  The Order had repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules.  SB 822, which we previously discussed here, was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2019, and contains the most stringent net neutrality requirements of any state.  When the law was passed on September 30, the U.S. Department of Justice immediately sued California, arguing it was preempted by the FCC’s Order.

Continue Reading Net Neutrality Update: California and the United States Agree to Stay Further Proceedings Pending Review of FCC Order

On September 30, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to apply net neutrality rules to Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) operating in that state.  California is not the first state to enact legislation on net neutrality, but its bill contains the most stringent requirements yet.  The Trump Administration and multiple ISPs have sued to prevent the new law from going into effect, arguing that it conflicts with federal law.  The first hearing on the legal challenge will take place on November 14.

Continue Reading California Adopts Net Neutrality Law; Court Hearing Scheduled for Nov. 14

On December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) voted along party lines to adopt a 210-page Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order (the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” or “Order”) geared towards overhauling the net neutrality framework established during the Obama administration in 2015 (the “2015 Order”).  On February 22nd, the Order was officially published in the Federal Register — kicking off the period for filing of court challenges to the FCC’s decision and for efforts by Democrats in Congress to signal dissent through passing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act.

Against the backdrop of these actions at the federal level, for the past few months several states have taken matters into their own hands and begun proposing their own ways to restore the 2015 Order’s net neutrality rules within their borders.  Such efforts, even if successful at the state level, will likely be met in the courts by the Restoring Internet Freedom Order’s explicit statement that the Order preempts all “inconsistent state and local regulations.” 
Continue Reading States Battle to Resurrect Net Neutrality Rules

On 20 November, Covington hosted its webinar looking at developments in Net Neutrality and Zero-rating from both a US and a European perspective. Our presenters included ex-FCC Bureau Chief, Partner Matt DelNero from our DC office, and ex-DG Competition Head of Unit, Partner Kevin Coates and Senior Associate Siobhan Kahmann from our Brussels office. The

In a Public Notice released this week, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau provided details regarding the procedures by which video programming distributors (including broadcasters and MVPDs) must report video programmers who refuse to provide widely available closed captioning quality certifications.

The procedures described in the Public Notice are an outgrowth of the closed

The FCC Media Bureau’s designated May 29, 2015 “Pre-Auction Licensing Deadline” is rapidly approaching.  Full power and Class A facilities must be licensed by this deadline in order to be eligible for protection in the repacking process that will be part of the television incentive auction. For these purposes, facilities subject to a pending application

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which it proposes satellite television “market modification” rules to implement Section 102 of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR).  STELAR amends the Communications Act and the Copyright Act to give the FCC authority to modify a commercial television broadcast station’s local television market for purposes of satellite carriage rights.  The FCC previously had such authority to modify markets only in the cable carriage context.  The FCC also proposes to change the factors relevant to the market modification process.  Below, we list some of the tentative conclusions and interpretations on which the FCC seeks comment.

The main effect of a market modification is to expand or contract the areas in which a station may elect mandatory carriage under the must-carry rules.  To the extent that a station’s network affiliation or other agreements authorize a station to grant retransmission consent only in the station’s Nielsen DMA, a market modification petition granted by the FCC would not alter the boundaries of that DMA.   However, for stations that have elected retransmission consent, a market modification may have implications with respect to the areas in which such stations’ signals may be carried as “local” signals under the copyright laws.


Continue Reading FCC Releases NPRM Regarding STELAR’s Market Modification Provisions

The Federal Communications Commission today announced its intent to fine a television station $325,000 — the maximum penalty available — for airing less than three seconds of a pornographic video on a small portion of the screen during an evening newscast.  The Notice of Apparent Liability is a reminder of the FCC’s continued vigorous enforcement of its obscenity and indecency rules.
Continue Reading FCC Plans Maximum Fine for Television Broadcast of Indecent Material