The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
The FCC has released the Eligible Services List (ESL) for the E-Rate program for funding year 2016. Most of the changes are intended to reflect program revisions adopted in 2014. See the Regulatory Mix dated 5/27/15 and 12/12/14. TMI Regulatory Bulletin Service subscribers see Bulletin dated 1/19/15 and 9/18/15.
Team Telecom Process Reform
In a blog posting, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly has recommended changes to the way “Team Telecom” operates when reviewing telecommunications transactions for national security concerns. (Team Telecom is a working group of representatives from the Federal government entities charged with ensuring national security: the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, State, Treasury, and Commerce, as well as US Trade Representative and the FBI). Expressing concern about the “opaque and sometimes unending review process” used by Team Telecom when reviewing transactions involving broadcasters, O-Reilly noted that “Once transaction applications are submitted, there is little to no information available to the Commission, much less applicants, on status or potential areas of concern, no timeline for conclusion, and way to discern which agency, if any, has concerns.” Moreover,”[t]he haphazard process does not provide any precedential value for future applicants to know what may be acceptable or unacceptable practices, structure or partnerships. This leaves applicants subject to the whim of the individual members of Team Telecom at that exact moment in time.” Additionally, “Without a transparent and balanced process, any decisions resulting fuel the charge that blatant political influences led to a particular outcome.”
To remedy this problem, O’Reilly proposes; (1) establishing a new foreign ownership cap for media companies: (2) establishing a notification process for a potential licensee to inform the FCC if foreign investment would be involved above 80% and forward pertinent information to Team Telecom; (3) establishing that foreign investment is automatically approved after 30 days, unless Team Telecom submits a formal request to the FCC seeking additional review time (for up to two 90-day periods); and (4) extend the same streamlined review process to investors seeking to invest in non-broadcast licensees.
Department of Commerce
The US Department of Commerce and the Department of the Treasury are announcing additional revisions to the Cuban sanctions that will, among other things, further facilitate travel to Cuba for authorized purposes and expand the telecommunications and internet-based services general licenses. The changes will take effect on September 21, 2015. With regard to telecommunications and Internet-based services specifically, the changes will allow persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to: (1) establish a business presence in Cuba, including through joint ventures with Cuban entities, to provide certain telecommunications and internet-based services, as well as to enter into licensing agreements related to, and to market, such services; and (2) import Cuban-origin mobile applications into the United States and to hire Cuban nationals to develop them. It will also expand the existing authorization to provide services related to certain consumer communications devices exported to Cuba to authorize services related to additional types of items and to add training related to the installation, repair, or replacement of those items. Finally, License Exception Consumer Communications Devices will no longer be limited to sales or donations. This change is intended to support other types of transactions, such as leases and loans of eligible items for use by eligible end-users.