National Security

Updated August 8, 2023.  Originally posted May 1, 2023.

Last week, comment deadlines were announced for a Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that could have significant compliance implications for all holders of international Section 214 authority (i.e., authorization to provide telecommunications services from points in the U.S. to points abroad).  The rule changes on which the FCC seeks comment are far-reaching and, if adopted as written, could result in significant future compliance burdens, both for entities holding international Section 214 authority, as well as the parties holding ownership interests in these entities.  Comments on these rule changes are due Thursday, August 31, with reply comments due October 2.

Adopted in April, the FCC’s item proposing the new rules also includes an Order requiring all holders of international Section 214 authority to respond to a one-time information request concerning their foreign ownership. Although last week’s Federal Register publication sets a comment deadline for the proposed rules, the reporting deadline for the one-time information request has not yet been established.  However, because the FCC has fulfilled its statutory obligations regarding the new information collection presented by the one-time reporting requirement, carriers — as well as entities holding an ownership interest in these carriers — should prepare for the announcement of the reporting deadline.

The FCC’s latest actions underscore the agency’s ongoing desire to closely scrutinize foreign ownership and involvement in telecommunications carriers serving the U.S. market, as well as to play a more active role in cybersecurity policy. These developments should be of interest to any carrier that serves the U.S. market and any financial or strategic investor focused on the telecommunications space, as well as other parties interested in national security developments affecting telecommunications infrastructure.

Proposed Rule Changes for International Section 214 Authority

The FCC’s proposed changes to its regulation of international Section 214 authorizations generally concern additional compliance, disclosure, and reporting requirements. The FCC’s proposed rule changes are far-reaching, but the most notable of the proposals concern the following:Continue Reading Comments Due August 31 on FCC’s Proposal to Step Up Review of Foreign Ownership in Telecom Carriers and Establish Cybersecurity Requirements

On the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions, and U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, 2022 accelerated a sweeping effort within the U.S. government to make national security considerations—especially with respect to China—a key feature of new and existing regulatory processes. This trend toward broader national security regulation, designed to help maintain U.S. strategic advantage, has support from both Republicans and Democrats, including from the Biden Administration. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s remarks in September 2022 capture the tone shift in Washington: “…[W]e have to revisit the longstanding premise of maintaining ‘relative’ advantages over competitors in certain key technologies…That is not the strategic environment we are in today…[w]e must maintain as large of a lead as possible.”

This environment produced important legislative and regulatory developments in 2022, including the CHIPS and Science Act (Covington alert), first-ever Enforcement and Penalty Guidelines promulgated by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS” or the “Committee”) (Covington alert), President Biden’s Executive Order on CFIUS (Covington alert), new restrictions under U.S. export control authorities targeting China (Covington alert), and proposals for a new regime to review outbound investments by U.S. businesses (Covington alert). The common thread among these developments is the U.S. government’s continuing appetite to use both existing and new regulatory authorities to address identified national security risks, especially where perceived risks relate to China.

With a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives riding the tailwinds of this bipartisan consensus, 2023 is looking like a pivotal moment for national security regulation—expanding beyond the use of traditional authorities such as trade controls and CFIUS, into additional regulatory domains touching upon data, communications, antitrust, and possibly more. In parallel, the U.S. focus on national security continues to gain purchase abroad, with foreign direct investment (“FDI”) regimes maturing in tandem with CFIUS, and outbound investment screening gaining traction, for example, in the European Union (“EU”). It is crucial for businesses to be aware of these developments and to approach U.S. regulatory processes with a sensitivity towards the shifting national security undercurrents described in greater detail below.Continue Reading Will 2023 Be an Inflection Point in National Security Regulation?