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As has been widely reported, there is an ongoing global shortage of semiconductor chips that enable products and services throughout many sectors of the economy.  On Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Public Notice seeking public comment on the impact of this chip shortage on the U.S. communications sector specifically.

The Public Notice does not propose new rules, rather, it seeks input from stakeholders in the communications sector to guide the FCC’s priorities and initiatives as it seeks to help build a more secure and resilient communications supply chain.  In issuing the Public Notice, acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel pointed out that “these tiny pieces of technology are the basic building blocks of modern communications—including 5G, Wi-Fi, satellites, and more.”

The Public Notice was released amidst efforts by Congress and the White House to address the current challenges facing the semiconductor industry in the United States, through the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act (CHIPS Act) passed in January and President Biden’s executive order on America’s Supply Chains issued in February.

In the Public Notice, the FCC seeks comment on questions regarding the specific causes and impacts of the global semiconductor shortage as well as the steps the FCC may take to address the challenges the shortage has created for the communications sector.  For example, the FCC asks for members of the public to provide information and ideas on:

  • Information to assist in measuring the extent of the impact of the shortage on specific technology nodes;
  • Different uses of semiconductors, such as systems-on-a-chip, microprocessors, memory chips, and standard chips;
  • Stakeholders in the communications sector that are affected by the shortage, such as consumers, enterprise system users, private network operators, and service providers;
  • The impact of the shortage on services that have moved online during the pandemic (e.g., remote learning and telehealth) and on vertical markets;
  • Steps the FCC can take to address the shortage;
  • How the FCC can effectively collaborate with Federal partners regarding the shortage; and
  • How the FCC can help prevent similar issues in the future to promote United States leadership in semiconductor manufacturing.

Comments on the Public Notice will be due June 10, 2021, and reply comments will be due June 25, 2021.

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