The Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved an effort to speed up and standardize national security reviews of foreign-owned companies that want to operate in the United States.
“We’ve formalized the close working relationship across our agencies in this matter and offer much needed clarity to the private sector on the rules of the road,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said ahead of Wednesday’s vote on the item.
In the past, the FCC would submit requests for national security reviews to a group of agencies including the intelligence community and the departments of Justice and Commerce, but did not receive reliable feedback on the group’s schedule or process for making recommendations. In the case of an application from China Mobile, it took seven years for Team Telecom, as the interagency group was known, to issue a recommendation. Last May, the FCC finally denied China Mobile a license.
The FCC in 2016 proposed setting deadlines for reviews and in April, the White House issued an executive order officially designating the Justice Department as chair of Team Telecom, which is now deemed “the committee.” The executive order also called for reviews to be completed within 120 days, with the possibility of a further 90-day review in cases where more work is necessary.
The order approved Wednesday mirrors that timeline, clarifies what types of applications will be submitted for review, and seeks to add more transparency to the process by requiring that applicants submit answers to a standardized list of questions along with their petitions for the committee to use in its review. Next, the FCC’s international bureau will issue the proposed list of questions for public comment.
“The United States benefits immensely from both foreign and domestic investment in our communications sector,” Pai said, describing the challenge the order looks to address. “This raises potentially competing interests. On one hand, we want to seize the opportunities that an influx of capital and talent afford, such as stronger research and development, more innovation, better services, domestic job creation and economic growth. On the other hand, we also need to take into account the serious national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, and trade policy issues that such an influx can present in some circumstances.”