Last week, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that she expects to circulate a proposal shortly that will authorize the FCC and/or certain national security agencies to periodically evaluate the foreign ownership of FCC licensees in light of national security considerations.  She made this announcement in a speech that focused on security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. 

Today, the FCC and a group of national security agencies review the foreign ownership of FCC licensees only when licenses are first sought, or when transfers of control or assignments of those licenses are proposed.  The perceived shortcomings of this approach arose recently in connection with the FCC’s review of certain China state-owned enterprise Section 214 licensees.  That review, which was initiated in 2019, ultimately resulted in the revocation of those licenses.  But, notably, most of the licensees involved in that action did not have a license transaction or application pending before the agency, and the FCC lacked clear procedures for evaluating foreign ownership and national security considerations outside of those contexts.  Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s proposal presumably is intended to address this.

What Chairwoman Rosenworcel will propose is notable because it could affect an existing licensee’s ability to bring on foreign investors that do not otherwise trigger a transfer of control.  It also could subject licensees to evolving thinking by national security agencies about which foreign owners and investors will trigger national security concerns – thinking that the agencies presumably will be able to act on more quickly under new rules. 

Although Chairwoman Rosenworcel made her proposal in the context of Section 214 licensees, it is not clear whether her proposal will be limited to on these types of licensees or whether it will extend to other types of licensees, too, such as wireless and subsea cable licensees.  It also is not clear whether the proposal will be in the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or Notice of Inquiry, which could affect the timing of any new rules.

Photo of Matthew DelNero Matthew DelNero

Matt DelNero works with companies in the telecommunications, technology and media sectors—advising them in policy development, regulatory compliance, and commercial transactions, among other settings.

Photo of Yaron Dori Yaron Dori

Yaron Dori has over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection law, advising telecom, technology, life sciences, media and other types of companies on their most pressing business challenges. He is a former chair of the Communications and Media practice…

Yaron Dori has over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection law, advising telecom, technology, life sciences, media and other types of companies on their most pressing business challenges. He is a former chair of the Communications and Media practice group and currently serves as a member of the firm’s eight-person Management Committee.

Yaron’s practice focuses on strategic planning, policy development, transactions, investigations and enforcement, and regulatory compliance.

He represents clients before federal regulatory agencies—including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—and the U.S. Congress in connection with a range of policy issues under the Communications Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and similar statutes. He also represents clients on state regulatory and enforcement matters, including those that pertain to telecommunications and data privacy regulation. His unique experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection enables him to advise clients on key business issues in which these areas intersect.

With respect to telecommunications matters, Yaron advises clients on a broad range of business, policy and consumer-facing issues, including:

  • Broadband deployment and regulation;
  • IP-enabled applications, services and content;
  • Equipment and device authorization procedures;
  • The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA);
  • Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) requirements;
  • The Cable Privacy Act
  • Net Neutrality; and
  • Local competition, universal service, and intercarrier compensation.

Yaron also has extensive experience in structuring transactions and securing regulatory approvals at both the federal and state levels for mergers, asset acquisitions and similar transactions involving large and small FCC and state licensees.

With respect to privacy and consumer protection matters, Yaron advises clients on a range of business, strategic, policy and compliance issues, including those that pertain to:

  • The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA);
  • The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA);
  • Location-based services that use WiFi, beacons or similar technologies;
  • Online Behavioral Advertising;
  • Online advertising practices, including native advertising and endorsements and testimonials; and
  • The application of federal and state telemarketing, commercial fax, and other consumer protection laws, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), to voice, text, and video transmissions.

Yaron also has experience advising companies on FCC (Enforcement Bureau), FTC and state attorney general investigations into various consumer protection and communications matters, including those pertaining to social media influencers, digital disclosures, product discontinuance, and advertising claims.

Photo of Jocelyn Jezierny Jocelyn Jezierny

Jocelyn Jezierny is an associate in Covington’s Washington, DC office and a member of the firm’s Communications and Media Industry Group. Before joining Covington, Jocelyn was an Attorney-Advisor in the Federal Communications Commission’s International Bureau, where she worked on matters pertaining to the…

Jocelyn Jezierny is an associate in Covington’s Washington, DC office and a member of the firm’s Communications and Media Industry Group. Before joining Covington, Jocelyn was an Attorney-Advisor in the Federal Communications Commission’s International Bureau, where she worked on matters pertaining to the licensing of foreign-owned U.S. telecommunications services providers.

Jocelyn is a member of the Bar of New York. District of Columbia bar application pending; supervised by principals of the firm.