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FCC Wants Shot Clock on Team Telecom Reviews

The FCC is proposing to recommend a 90-day shot clock on Executive Branch national security, foreign policy and trade reviews (so called "Team Telecom" reviews) of deals involving foreign ownership, as well as a greater role for the FCC in screening applications before passing them along to Executive Branch agencies.

There would also be the possibility of a one-time 90-day extension.

The goal is to streamline that process, including by setting timelines. Streamlining was the major ask from industry commenters on the reviews, particularly given the rise in deals involving foreign ownership and the potential for minority owners to attract new capital from overseas.

The FCC commissioners voted unanimously to propose the changes at the commission's public meeting June 24.

The commission is also asking whether the answers to questions posed in Team Telecom reviews should first be submitted to the FCC for review before being passed along to Executive Branch agencies and whether there are categories of applications for foreign ownership that don't need to be referred to the Executive Branch.

The current process can result in months-long delays in FCC reviews of deals involving foreign financing.

Related: FCC Approves Foreign Ownership NPRM

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said they were smart steps that could be taken without jeopardizing national security. Commissioner Ajit Pai said it would help companies who were in regulatory limbo due to delayed reviews.

He said the shot clock should "substantially expedite" applications pending before the FCC, speeding reviews that can take a year to only three months.

But he did have issues with some of the reform plan the Administration submitted to the FCC, particularly that "all applicants certify to the Commission that they will 'make communications to, from, or within the United States, as well as records thereof, available in a form and location that permits them to be subject to lawful request or valid legal process under U.S. law.'"

He also has issues with the Executive Branch request that certification be required of applicants not now currently subject to the Team Telecom review.

Both commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O'Rielly said there remained issues about storage of any personal information submitted as part of the reviews.

O'Rielly, who has called the Team Telecom review a "black hole," was given credit by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler for his leadership on the item. Rosenworcel echoed that shout-out.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.