United States – International Submarine Cable Licensing


Editor’s Note:


This Practice Note describes the international submarine cable licensing regime in the United States.


The following summary of the regime is adapted from: “Chapter Two:  Submarine Cables”, Title 47, Section of the United States Code and “Rules for International Carriers”, the full text of which is available at: http://www.fcc.gov/ib/pd/pf/telecomrules.html#BM_1_767 and  http://www.fcc.gov/ib/pd/pf/clla.html, respectively.



Title 47, Section 34 of the United States Code (“USC”) states the following:

“No person shall land or operate in the United States any submarine cable directly or indirectly connecting the United States with any foreign country, or connecting one portion of the United States with any other portion thereof, unless a written license to land or operate such cable has been issued by the President of the United States. The conditions of sections 34 to 39 of this title shall not apply to cables, all of which, including both terminals, lie wholly within the continental United States.”

Identity of Applicants

The following entities must apply for a cable landing license:

  1. Any entity that owns or controls a cable landing station in the United States; and
  2. All other entities owning or controlling a five percent (5%) or greater interest in the cable system and using the U.S. points of the cable system.

Cable Landing Licensing Procedure

Generally, under Title 47, Section 1.767 of the Code of Federal Regulations, applications should contain:

  1. The name, address and telephone number(s) of the applicant;
  2. The Government, State, or Territory under the laws of which each corporate or partnership applicant is organized;
  3. The name, title, post office address, and telephone number of the officer and any other contact point, such as legal counsel, to whom correspondence concerning the application is to be addressed;
  4. A description of the submarine cable, including the type and number of channels and the capacity thereof;
  5. A specific description of the cable landing stations on the shore of the United States and in foreign countries where the cable will land.;
  6. A statement as to whether the cable will be operated on a common carrier or non-common carrier basis;
  7. A list of the proposed owners of the cable system, including each U.S. cable landing station, their respective voting and ownership interests in each U.S. cable landing station, their respective voting interests in the wet link portion of the cable system, and their respective ownership interests by segment in the cable;
  8. For each applicant of the cable system, a certification as to whether the applicant is, or is affiliated with, a foreign carrier , including an entity that owns or controls a foreign cable landing station in any of cable's destination markets;
  9. A certification that the applicant accepts and will abide by the routine conditions specified in paragraph (g) of this section; and
  10. Any other information that may be necessary to enable the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to act on the application.

Processing of Cable Landing License Applications

The FCC will process an application eligible for streamlined processing within forty-five (45) days after release of the public notice announcing that the application is acceptable for filing and is eligible for streamlined processing.  If the FCC deems an application seeking streamlined processing acceptable for filing but ineligible for streamlined processing, or if an applicant does not seek streamlined processing, the FCC will issue a public notice indicating that the application is ineligible for streamlined processing.  Within ninety (90) days of the public notice, the FCC will process the application or provide public notice that, because the application raises questions of extraordinary complexity, an additional 90-day period for review is needed.  Each successive 90-day period may be so extended.

Eligibility for Streamlining

Each applicant must demonstrate eligibility for streamlining by:

  1. Certifying that it is not a foreign carrier and it is not affiliated with a foreign carrier in any of the cable's destination markets;
  2. Demonstrating that any such foreign carrier or affiliated foreign carrier lacks market power; or
  3. Certifying that the destination market where the applicant is, or has an affiliation with, a foreign carrier is a World Trade Organization (WTO) Member and the applicant agrees to accept and abide by specified reporting requirements.  An application that includes an applicant that is, or is affiliated with, a carrier with market power in a cable's non-WTO Member destination country is not eligible for streamlining.


Source: Federal Communications Commission http://www.fcc.gov/ib/pd/pf/telecomrules.html#BM_1_767 and  http://www.fcc.gov/ib/pd/pf/clla.html 



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