When Do I Need FCC Approval to Transfer a License
And How Do I Get It?

If you make changes in the ownership of an entity that is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), you may need the Commission's prior approval. Such changes would include changes in control of the entity (both changes in equity or the granting of certain rights, such as a right to appoint a majority of the directors), or a merger of the entity into another company. Likewise, if you want to sell certain assets of an entity that is subject to FCC jurisdiction, or if you plan to assign a license or an authorization that is granted by the FCC, you likely need prior Commission approval. There are some exceptions to these general principles, such as changes of control of a licensee where ultimate control still resides with the same persons or entities. But even in these circumstances, detailed notice to the FCC after such pro forma changes take place is often still required.

Obtaining FCC approval for changes of control of a licensee, or assignments or transfers of authorizations or licenses involves filing an application with the FCC and paying a predetermined FCC filing fee. The application process, including its associated review time, and the applicable filing fees vary according to the type of license involved. For example, in the case of domestic Section 214 authorizations, the process has been streamlined and could take as little as 30 days. International licenses could take as little as 14 days. Since prior FCC approval is often required before a sale or merger transaction can be closed, preparing, filing and prosecuting the appropriate application is a critical step in the acquisition process. Failure to obtain prior FCC approval, when it is required, could result in fines or forfeitures - including an FCC requirement to unwind the transaction.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get Commission approval?

The processing period varies according to the license type. Some transfers are streamlined and if you qualify for the streamlined processing, Commission approval is granted automatically after a certain number of days - after which you can close your transaction. If you don't qualify for streamlined processing (such as in the case of large mergers in the public eye), the Commission will establish a timeline (usually over 180 days or less) pursuant to which it conducts its review, but to which it is not bound.

How much does it cost to obtain the FCC approval?

The filing fees vary by the type of service. See the Commission's fee schedule on fcc.gov to identify the applicable FCC filing fee. Our llegal fees are often flat rated. Contact us for more information.

If I have multiple licenses, can I file one application? Can I pay only one FCC filing fee?

In general, although most licenses of the same type can be included on the same transfer application, licenses of different types must be filed with their respective Bureaus. In some cases, the FCC will consolidate the applications and coordinate their review. But a separate filing fee must accompany each application. For example, if an entity has CMRS licenses, domestic private lines and provides international services under an International 214 license, applications would need to be filed with the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the Wireline Competition Bureau and the International Bureau -- although the domestic and international 214 transfers could be bundled in one application that is filed with both bureaus. The FCC would expect to receive a filing fee of $1050 for the domestic 214 license transfer, another $1050 for the international 214 license transfer, and $55 for each CMRS license to be transferred.

Do I need approval from the states as well as from the FCC?

If you have an authorization from a state, you will likely need prior approval from the state before changing control of the licensed entity or assigning the license. The actual requirements, however, vary considerably from state to state. We can assist you with state filings as well. Click here for more information.

Do I need approval to simply cancel my license?

Usually, yes. Click here for more information on canceling a 214 license or a 499A registration.

Contact Our Attorneys to Transfer your Telecommunications License

If you need assistance in drafting or negotiating your telecommunications contract, contact our law offices in the Washington, DC metro area to speak with an experienced lawyer.

The law offices of Thomas Lynch & Associates provides legal advice to telecommunications businesses throughout the United States, including Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, San Jose and Palo Alto.

 

Overview
And How to Get Started

Who Needs FCC Approval? An entity that plans to undergo a change of control or merger, or transfer or assign any license granted by the FCC or certain assets regulated by the FCC needs prior commission approval, with limited exceptions.

How Long Does It Take? The process varies by the type of licenses involved. The shortest period is typically 14 days. The longest period should be no more than 180 days for complex mergers involving multiple licenses of varying types. Generally, you should figure at least 30 days.

How Much Does it Cost? The FCC's filing fees vary according to the license type. Our fees are flat rated and reasonable.

How Do I Get Started? Contact us by phone or e-mail to begin the application process. Contact information is here.

What Our Clients Say

"I thought it would take a lot longer to get the approvals. But Tom Lynch was able to obtain our international license in only a few weeks. We'll definitely call him again for our licensing needs."

Lijun Niu, President
Nucom Technology, Inc.

"Tom Lynch is prompt, professional and affordable. His in-depth knowledge of domestic regulatory issues and compliance is outstanding. We now to turn to Tom for all of our licensing needs."

Gregory Wasilewski, President
IPC Network Services, Inc.

 

 
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