FCC Issues Detailed Instructions for All International 214 Holders to Respond to the Commission’s Mandatory Ownership Information Collection (by January 22, 2024)

In our post last week, we explained the deadline has been established for the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC’s” or Commission’s) mandatory ownership information collection (“Information Collection”) applicable to all holders of Section 214 authority to provide international telecommunications services (“International 214 Holders”): January 22, 2024. We also explained that the FCC’s Office of International Affairs (“OIA”) would shortly issue a public notice with detailed instructions for submission of carrier responses. Well, that day has arrived. The OIA Public Notice was issued December 13, 2023, announcing the opening of a newly created One-Time Information Filing System (the Filing System”). The Public Notice provides an overview of the process, supported by a detailed 24-page Handbook with a walk-through of the information requests. OIA also established a dedicated webpage on the Information Collection process, with additional materials and FCC contacts for assistance.

Based on our initial review of these materials, it appears that the filing process may prove cumbersome, regardless of the simplicity or complexity of a carrier’s specific ownership information. In our earlier posts on this subject, we encouraged International 214 Holders to begin collecting not only their direct ownership details but, perhaps more importantly, all indirect ownership, control, and investment management information. Foremost among the potential logistical challenges is resolution of any FRN-related issues. We emphasized that all International 214 Holders must respond to the Information Collection and that each must have an FRN in the FCC’s CORES system; however, the OIA’s instructions clarify that the FRN must also be associated in ICFS with the specific international Section 214 authorization(s) for which responses are being submitted. This association should be checked specifically by each responding International 214 Holder. Instructions for confirming this association are provided in both the Public Notice and the Handbook. Arranging new associations and/or correcting existing associations must be coordinated through FCC Staff, which may take some time if the level of requests is high, which might be the case because many Section 214 authorizations likely were issued many years ago.

In addition, use of the Filing System presents a number of somewhat cumbersome logistical aspects – e.g., users cannot go back through the program to correct responses on earlier screens. Instead, to effectively accomplish that, a special link must be requested by email from the Commission to view and modify the already completed screens. Responding International 214 Holders wishing to review their entire submission before certifying are advised to print (or screen-shot) each screen as they complete it because the total set of responses can only be printed after they are submitted. We find that various inadvertent keystrokes may cause the user to be directed out of the form” and have to re-enter. Generally, users may reduce the risk of these technical perils” by closely reading the instruction materials.

Every International 214 Holder is strongly recommended to closely review the Public Notice and Handbook before complying with the Information Collection, with particular attention to the discussion of the FRN-authorization association, and proceed to address any FRN association issues as soon as practicable.