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An Update: Driving Innovation and Reforms from the International Bureau

by: Mindel De La Torre , International Bureau Chief

April 23, 2013

The Commission recently adopted the Second Report and Order on Foreign Ownership (“Order”) to overhaul and streamline the way it reviews foreign ownership of U.S. wireless companies under sections 310(b)(3) and (b)(4) of the Communications Act.  These reforms will dramatically reduce the number of hours applicants spend to prepare required filings, as well as lower, by up to 70%, the number of such filings annually.;

This Order is the latest in a series of regulatory reform and data innovation efforts we in the International Bureau have taken under the leadership of Chairman Genachowski.  I’d like to take this occasion to highlight these reform accomplishments and to thank the excellent staff in the Bureau and the Commission for their efforts to streamline and improve the way we interact with industry and the public.

A guiding principle of our regulatory reform efforts has been to achieve flexible, common sense, market-based, data-driven and targeted regulatory frameworks that are informed by our experience and made in consultation with a broad set of stakeholders, including industry, commenters, and relevant Executive Branch agencies.  They also demonstrate that there are several approaches to regulatory reform, including identifying and eliminating unnecessary rules, streamlining required rules, and refocusing existing rules to meet technological and market sector changes.

In addition to the foreign ownership streamlining action, here are just a few of the significant reform efforts we have taken over the last four years:

  • A First and Second Report and Order modernized and streamlined the international data reporting requirements, eliminating outdated international reporting requirements and reducing the number of international reports to just two, exempting over a 1,000 small carriers from filing their traffic and revenue data, and decreasing the level of detail submitted by international service providers by over 75%.

    The information we gather from international service providers helps ensure the Commission has the information it needs to carry out its statutory duties to review transactions, protect American consumers from anticompetitive conduct in the communications market, and provide critical information across government for international trade negotiations and disaster relief.

    See below for a snapshot of how international traffic has changed over the last ten years, Michael Byrne, the Commission’s Geographic Information Officer, has helped us depict the international traffic data that we’ve collected in an innovative, user-friendly graphical interface.

    [[wysiwyg_imageupload:473:]]

    Also see below for a graphical snapshot from the latest data from 2011.

    [[wysiwyg_imageupload:474:]]
     
  • The International Settlements Policy Report and Order eliminated outdated regulations governing agreements between U.S. and foreign carriers for delivering international phone traffic, while strengthening the Commission’s ability to protect U.S. consumers from the effects of anticompetitive conduct by foreign carriers.
  • A series of orders on mobile earth stationsestablished rules to add certainty and predictability for industry applicants and licensees to provide broadband on vehicles, such as airplanes, cars/trucks, and ships.  These new rules will foster competition in the provision of broadband using mobile earth stations. We also expect the new rules for broadband aboard aircraft to speed up application processing by up to 50%.
  • The ongoing Part 25 Notice of Proposed Rule Making will reform and streamline the satellite licensing rules in order to promote more rapid deployment of innovative satellite-based services to the U.S. public, and foster greater investment by easing regulatory burdens on applicants, licensees, and the Commission.

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Together, these efforts have yielded better rules that promote innovation, encourage private investment, and enhance competition for international and satellite service providers, while continuing to protect important consumer and national interests. 

I’m also very proud to highlight the amazing strides we’ve made in our application processing reform efforts.  Our satellite space station licensing backlog has been dramatically reduced – from 90 applications in June 2009 to 7 in April 2013.

A reduction in these backlogs benefits the commercial satellite industry, which can receive approvals to provide innovative services to U.S. consumers in a faster timeframe.

I look forward to carrying this momentum forward as we continue to look for ways to reduce, streamline and recalibrate our rules in order to continue fostering technological innovation in the United States.

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