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Brian Weimer is a corporate partner in the firm's Washington, D.C. office and Leader of the firm's Communications Practice Group.

  • CFIUS takes an unprecedented step to fend off a potential foreign acquisition
  • The threat that China will eclipse the U.S. in telecommunications infrastructure and technology is central to U.S. national security
  • Five key takeaways from the most recent CFIUS action

Since late 2017, Singapore-based semiconductor company Broadcom has been pursuing a $117 billion hostile takeover bid for Qualcomm, its U.S.-based rival whose chips are omnipresent in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, including consumer devices like smartphones and tablets. As part of its hostile bid, Broadcom nominated its own slate of six directors who were to be voted on at Qualcomm’s annual stockholders meeting, originally scheduled for March 6th. However, earlier this week the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) announced that it “issued an interim order to Qualcomm directing it to postpone its annual stockholders meeting and election of directors by 30 days. This measure will afford CFIUS the ability to investigate fully Broadcom’s proposed acquisition of Qualcomm.”
Continue Reading Chips on Their Shoulders: CFIUS Intervenes in Broadcom’s Hostile Takeover Bid for Qualcomm

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road” – Stewart Brand

Last week, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing guidelines and procedures designed to “breathe life” into Section 7 of the Communications Act. A somewhat obscure part – or, as Chairman Ajit Pai prefers, the “neglected stepchild” – of the Communications Act, Section 7 requires the FCC to make a public interest determination on proposals for new technologies or services within one year. Although a one-year timeframe may seem like quite a lengthy period for regulatory approval, it represents an increase to warp speed for an FCC that sometimes can take many years to approve challenging new technologies.


Continue Reading FCC Proposes Expedited Treatment For New Technologies

Last month, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) released its annual report to Congress for 2015 (the “2015 Annual Report”) and its cumulative table summarizing foreign investment activity from 2014 through 2016 (the “Cumulative Summary Table”). These documents reflect a substantial increase in the number of CFIUS filings in recent years and an increase in the percentage of CFIUS Notices that have been subject to an investigation process. The Report also reflects a new focus at CFIUS on the national security risks associated with data breaches affecting U.S. citizens’ personal information.
Continue Reading Tracking Trends in CFIUS Review Process Based on Recently Released 2015 Annual Report

Under new Chairman Ajit Pai’s leadership, the Federal Communications Commission (the “Commission”) is taking its first steps toward reforming its rules interpreting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). On Wednesday, May 17, the Commission published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) for a proposed rule that would allow all voice service providers – including wireless providers and VoIP providers – to block illegal robocalls before they reach consumers. Comments on the NPRM are due by July 3, 2017, and Reply Comments are due by July 31, 2017.
Continue Reading TCPA Update: FCC Seeks Guidance on Proposed Robocall-Blocking Rule

On September 30, 2016, the FCC adopted an order designed to liberalize and streamline the foreign ownership review process for broadcast licensees (the “Broadcast Liberalization Order”).  Section 310(b) of the Communications Act caps at 25 percent the amount of indirect foreign investment permissible in a U.S. broadcast, common carrier, or aeronautical fixed or en route radio licensee without obtaining FCC approval.  Prior to 2013, the long-standing presumption among FCC practitioners was that the FCC simply would not allow indirect foreign ownership of a U.S. broadcast licensee in excess of the 25% benchmark in the Communications Act, even though the Act expressly contemplated such investments so long as they were blessed by the FCC.  The Commission issued an Order in 2013 clarifying that the 25% foreign investment mark served only as a trigger requiring the FCC to review applications on a case-by-case basis, not an automatic bar to such investment.  Foreign investment in broadcast licensees above 25% required prior express consent, based on an evaluation of public interest and national security considerations.  Also in 2013, the FCC streamlined the process for reviewing foreign ownership amounts in excess of 25% for common carrier and aeronautical radio licensees.  The recent Broadcast Liberalization Order largely extended these same rules and procedures to broadcast licensees, with certain exceptions and modifications.
Continue Reading FCC Liberalizes Rules for Foreign Investment in U.S. Broadcast Licensees

In a move that will support the development of 5G networks, the FCC issued an Order last week in the “Spectrum Frontiers” proceeding that should open up large amounts of high-band spectrum for licensed and unlicensed use.  The Commission adopted a new framework for flexible-use licensing in several spectrum bands above 24 GHz, permitting mobile operations in those bands and instituting rules to ensure shared access with incumbent licensees. The Commission also noted that the new licensing framework may serve as a template for rulemaking in additional high-frequency bands in the future, and issued an NPRM seeking feedback on proposals that would open nearly 18 GHz more to mobile use.
Continue Reading Hailing on All Frequencies: The FCC Releases the Spectrum Frontiers Order

Last week, Congress reauthorized the Export-Import Bank of the United States as part of the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act,” a law funding new transportation infrastructure.  The bill was signed into law on Dec. 4.  EXIM Bank has been unable to lend to new projects since its charter expired on June 30 this year.  The FAST Act reauthorizes it for four years – through Sept. 30, 2019 – and enables it to begin lending again.
Continue Reading EXIM Bank Back in Business

Cuba Map

Historic changes in relations between the United States and Cuba (that touch nerves in Hip-Hop and on Capitol Hill) and new U.S. sanctions against Venezuela may provide increased opportunities for U.S. business generally, and electronic communications technologies and infrastructure providers in particular.  This week’s Cuba and Venezuela headlines, combined with recent and historic shifts in telecommunications and broadcasting markets in Mexico, on which we reported here, herald historic changes in Latin American electronic communications and infrastructure markets.


Continue Reading Turnin’ Havana to Atlanta: The White House Opens Doors for U.S. Telecommunications Investment in Cuba and Latin America

The FCC recently slid up its chair to the fiscal feast that is cyber security and data breach regulation and took a hefty piece of the pie.  In late October the FCC announced that it charged a record $10 million fine against two telecommunication companies after the telecoms reportedly posted the private information of nearly 300,000 people in a manner making the people eligible for identity theft. Taking a cue from the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the FCC action was not based on any new set of concrete regulations or laws established to give organizations a minimum bar for data protection, but rather on existing FCC powers established under the Communications Act of 1934. The action serves as good warning not only to communications providers that the FCC will be examining data breaches and, more expressly, data storage issues, but also that in the absence of clear cybersecurity regulations, federal agencies will take an expansive view of their existing authority to address cybersecurity-related incidents involving companies subject to their jurisdiction.
Continue Reading The FCC Takes a Seat at the Cyber-Regulation Table

In a stunning ruling issued on July 15, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) and the subsequent unwinding of the investment deprived the foreign investor of due process under the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Ralls Corp. v. Comm. on Foreign Investment in the United States, No. 12-cv-01513 (D.C. Cir. Jul. 15, 2014) (a copy of the opinion is here).  If upheld, the ruling may require fundamental changes in how CFIUS conducts its reviews and may enhance foreign investors’ ability to influence or challenge the outcome of a review.
Continue Reading Shedding Light on CFIUS: Appeals Court Holds That CFIUS Review Lacks Constitutional Due Process