In order to update the FCC’s records, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) issued a Public Notice announcing the opening of a one-time information collection (Information Collection) regarding foreign ownership that requires participation from all international section 214 authorization holders. The information collection will assist the Commission in determining the number of active international authorization holders and whether they have reportable foreign ownership. Responses are required no later than 11:59pm EST on January 22, 2024, and can be filed here.
All international section 214 authorization holders must file a response in the Information Collection unless they file a surrender letter before that deadline. Authorization holders that meet the exemption described below will only have to report, on an aggregated basis, the citizenship(s) or place(s) of organization of their reportable foreign interest holders.
In 1999, the FCC granted all telecommunications carriers blanket authority under section 214 to provide domestic interstate services and construct or operate any domestic transmission. But this blanket authority was not extended to international services due to national security considerations. Under the current rules, any entity that seeks to provide U.S.-international common carrier telecommunications service must obtain prior FCC approval by filing an application for international section 214 authority. Such application is provided to the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State.
Entities holding an international section 214 authorization must obtain prior FCC approval before consummating a substantial assignment or transfer of control of its international section 214 authorization and must file a notification of a non-substantial or pro forma assignment or transfer of control of its international section 214 authorization. The FCC also continues to reassess on an ad hoc basis whether a telecommunication carrier’s retention of international section 214 authority presents national security concerns that warrant revocation or termination of such authority. But outside of these filings and its ad hoc review process, the FCC does not receive any updated information from authorization holders.
On April 20, 2023, the Commission adopted an Order requiring a one-time collection of foreign ownership information from authorization holders. On August 22, 2023, the FCC adopted an Order exempting certain international section 214 authorization holders from disclosing certain details of their reportable foreign ownership in the Information Collection.
One-Time Information Collection
Exemption for Certain Disclosures
An August 2023 FCC Order exempts authorization holders who filed certain applications (applications filed for: (1) an initial international section 214 authorization; (2) a modification of an international section 214 authorization; or (3) a substantial assignment or transfer of control, not a pro forma filing), granted on or after January 22, 2021, from answering certain questions in the Information Collection. This includes questions pertaining to identities, specific equity and voting interests, and description of controlling interests, of their reportable foreign interest holders.1 These exempted authorization holders will thus be required only to identify, on an aggregated basis, the citizenship(s) or place(s) of organization of their reportable foreign interest holders.
To qualify for the exemption, there must be no reportable foreign interest holders of the authorization holder other than those already disclosed in the application, including any amendments, and no changes2 to the reportable foreign interest holders disclosed in the application, including any amendments, as of December 23, 2023. Authorization holders must also supply the file number of the application that fulfills these requirements to qualify for the exemption.
Other International Section 214 Authorization Holders
All other authorization holders will be required to identify their 10 percent or greater direct or indirect foreign interest holders that hold such equity and/or voting interests, as of December 23, 2023. If the foreign interest holder is an entity or individual that is a government organization or citizen of a foreign adversary country3 then such authorization holder must identify each interest holder, including foreign interest holders of countries that are not foreign adversary countries. These international section 214 authorization holders must also disclose whether any interest holder has dual or more citizenships and identify those citizenships and certify to the truth and accuracy of the information they submit.
If an authorization holder files a surrender letter prior to the filing deadline, such authorization holder is not required to response to the Information Collection. Surrender letters can be filed in the International Communications Filing System (ICFS). It is customary that a surrender letter include: (1) the authorization file numbers that are being surrendered; (2) information as to whether the authorization holder has existing customers; and (3) an explanation as to how such existing customers are being managed.
All international section 214 authorization holders must file a response in the filing system by January 22, 2024. The Commission is currently considering the repercussions of failing to timely file a complete response in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Of note, the FCC is considering cancelling filers’ international section 214 authorization and/or imposing forfeitures if responses are not complete and timely filed.
The Commission reminds all filers that all international section 214 authorization holders must obtain an FRN4 to file responses to the Information Collection. If a filer does not have an FRN, such filer must obtain the FRN through the Commission Registration System (CORES) webpage. Once a filer obtains its FRN, such filer must send an email to ICFSInfo@fcc.gov to request that the FCC staff add the FRN to its current authorization file number in the ICFS. If an FRN is already associated with the filer’s current authorization filer number, the filer should use that FRN and not attempt to obtain a new FRN.
If you are required to respond to the one-time information collection and have questions, please let us know.
1 Reportable foreign interest holders are foreign persons or entities that hold a 10 percent or greater direct or indirect equity and/or voting interests, or a controlling interest, in the section 214 authorization holder.
2 Reportable foreign interest holder changes that would disqualify an authorization holder for the exemption include, but are not limited to: (1) changes to reported citizenship, including dual or multiple citizenships, and/or place(s) of organization; (2) removal of any reportable foreign interest holder from chain of ownership; and (3) changes in ownership interests to greater than 10 percent equity and/or voting interests or controlling interest.
3 The foreign adversary countries are China (including Hong Kong), Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and the Maduro Regime.
4 An FRN is a 10-digit number assigned to all individuals and entities that transact business with the FCC.