On Saturday, the President by Executive Order formally established an interagency committee to advise the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on national security and law enforcement concerns related to certain license applications by companies under foreign ownership or control. The Attorney General will chair the committee, which includes the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense.
Saturday’s Executive Order, “Establishing the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector,” formalizes a process known as Team Telecom that has existed for years, but which will benefit from a transparent and empowered structure.
“In the digital age, our telecommunications networks are more important than ever, and not just to the economy,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “This is a national security and public safety issue. That’s why the federal government must be vigilant and ensure that a foreign adversary cannot undermine the networks our country depends on.”
The Justice Department’s National Security Division, through its Foreign Investment Review Section, will represent the Attorney General on the Committee. Other departments and agencies will serve as Advisors to the Committee.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners to ensure that our nation’s telecommunications networks maintain the security, integrity, and continuity that the American people expect and American security demands,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “We welcome foreign participation in our communications system, but we must ensure that anyone licensed to do business here is a trusted partner. The National Security Division is ready and proud to lead this effort to increase transparency to the public, certainty and timeliness for the business community, and security for the nation.”
The Committee will review applications for telecommunications, submarine cable landing, and other FCC licenses which the FCC refers for review of national security and law enforcement concerns. 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 a review reveals potential risks, must complete a secondary assessment within 90 days. Even complex applications would be reviewed within about a year, substantially faster than Team Telecom has functioned historically. The EO also establishes a framework for Advisors to the Committee to contribute to the process, ensuring that the FCC receives a timely recommendation that reflects a coordinated Executive Branch view. Those recommendations will continue to be filed on the FCC’s public docket, and the FCC will continue to make the final decision on the disposition of any application.
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