The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector - Frequently Asked Questions


 

What does the Executive Order do?

This Executive Order formalizes and improves the interagency committee, formerly known as Team Telecom, that advises the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on national security and law enforcement concerns associated with applications for telecommunications licenses meeting certain thresholds of foreign ownership or control.  The Executive Order creates a formal process to review applications referred by the FCC to the Committee that raise the concerns mentioned above within an established timeframe.  In addition, the Executive Order allows the Committee to assess whether new national security or law enforcement concerns exist with respect to existing FCC licenses previously reviewed by interested Executive Branch agencies.

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Where can I find more information about the Executive Order?

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What are the national security risks to telecommunications networks?

Our telecommunications networks are increasingly attractive targets for espionage, sabotage, and other forms of malign foreign activity.  These activities could threaten the ability of our networks to provide crucial support to critical infrastructure and emergency services and to securely store and communicate vast amounts of sensitive information.

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What are the timelines in the Executive Order for Review?

Under the Executive Order, once an application is deemed complete, the Committee must complete an initial review of an application within 120 days, and if the review reveals potential risks, must complete a secondary assessment within 90 days.  There is additional time built in for particularly complex cases, where Committee Members or Advisors may disagree.

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Who are the Members of the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector?

The Attorney General is the chair of the Committee and the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security are also members.  The Executive Order also allows the President to determine whether any other Executive department or agency, or assistant to the President should also serve as a Committee member.

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Who are the Advisors to the Committee and what is their role?

The Advisors to the Committee include the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; the United States Trade Representative; the Director of National Intelligence; the Administrator of the General Services Administration; the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and certain Assistants to the President.  The role of the Advisors is to draw on their expertise in the review of applications and advise the Committee in forming a recommendation.

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What is the difference between the Committee Members and the Advisors?

The Executive Order outlines of the duties of the Committee Members, which include, but are not limited to: submitting questions or requests for information to applicants or licensees, identifying risks to national security or law enforcement interests of the United States, coordinating on initial and secondary reviews, proposing conditions necessary to mitigate national security and/or law enforcement risks.  The Committee Advisors are notified if the Committee Members recommend denial of an application, granting an application contingent on non-standard mitigation, modification of a license to include non-standard mitigation measures, or revocation of a license.

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What types of applications does the Committee Review?

The Committee reviews certain types of applications, including:

  • New international Section 214 authorization:  Applicant seeks authority from the FCC to provide international telecommunications service to or from the United States.
      
  • Transactions regarding an existing international Section 214 authorization:  Applicant seeks authority to assign or transfer control of existing license(s) that allow(s) telecommunication services to or from the United States.
      
  • Submarine cable landing license application:  Applicant seeks authority to “land and operate” an international undersea cable that touches a U.S. territory.
      
  • Transactions regarding an existing submarine cable landing license:  Applicant seeks authority to assign or transfer control of existing submarine cable landing license(s).
      
  • Section 310(b)(4) Application/Petition for Declaratory Ruling:  Applicant seeks consent to exceed statutory foreign ownership limits for broadcast and common carrier wireless licensees, including common carrier satellite earth stations.

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Why does the Committee review these applications?

The FCC considers national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, and trade policy concerns as part of its public interest analysis of applications for international telecommunications authority, submarine cable landing licenses, or common carrier wireless or broadcast licenses, and refers such applications with reportable foreign ownership to other Executive Branch agencies for feedback.  With respect to national security and law enforcement concerns, the FCC requests the views of the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security, as the agencies with expertise in those areas.  This order formalizes the existing informal process.

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Is this Executive Order directed at any particular country or company?

No.  The Executive Order is company and country agnostic. It formalizes a pre-existing process while providing clarity and reliability to applicants, the public, and the FCC about the review and recommendation process.

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What is the difference between this Executive Order and the Supply Chain Executive Order? And the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)?

The Supply Chain EO (Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain, No. 13873, 84 FR 22689 (May 15, 2019) and this EO both enhance the security, reliability, and integrity of our telecommunications networks.  The Supply Chain EO does so by establishing the authority, under IEEPA, for Commerce to review the provision of information and communications equipment or services to an information and communications provider subject to U.S. jurisdiction from an entity that is owned, controlled, or subject to the jurisdiction or influence of a foreign adversary if necessary to protect national security.  By contrast, this EO guides the process by which Executive Branch departments and agencies with expertise in areas such as national security and law enforcement provide advice on certain applications to the FCC for authorizations and licenses.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) derives its authority from the Defense Production Act and is chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury.  CFIUS reviews mergers, acquisitions, and certain other non-passive investments and real estate transactions.  While some transactions will trigger a filing with the FCC and also be subject to CFIUS jurisdiction, the FCC reviews licensure for the eventual purpose of operation, while CFIUS reviews all elements of the transaction for national security risk.  The reviews by CFIUS and the FCC (inclusive of the Committee’s review) are independent of each other, though the Committee members are also members of CFIUS. 

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Are applications that were previously reviewed by the Executive Branch, and the licenses granted pursuant to those reviews, impacted by the EO?

If the Committee determines there is an unacceptable risk to the national security or law enforcement interests of the United States, it can recommend modifying or revoking licenses associated with applications previously reviewed by the departments and agencies collectively involved in the review process prior to the date of this order or to the Committee established in this Order.

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Updated April 23, 2020

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