Given our decades of experience, breadth of practice and global resources, Holland & Knight’s Telecommunications Team is able to provide clients with counsel regarding domestic and international regulatory, transactional, legislative and litigation services for wireless communications, IP-enabled services, wireline competition, and satellite and spectrum-based technologies. For example, we have:
- assisted a submarine cable system in drafting Engineering, Procurement and Construction contracts for offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and represented U.S. and foreign submarine cable owners in connection with international tax issues
- represented the debtor in the bankruptcy of a major international telecommunications company with interests in cable repair vessels and remotely operated underwater vehicles
- represented the owners of major transatlantic telephone cables as a result of damage caused by fishing vessels
- assisted a domestic air carrier with agreement and regulatory issues involved in providing broadband access to passengers onboard flights
- negotiated technology agreements with providers of satellite-related services needed for direct-to-home television distribution services
Wireless and Wireline Technologies
We provide coordinated services in a wide variety of disciplines, including establishing new businesses, assisting with spectrum auctions, preparing contracts for the merger and acquisition of telecommunications properties, negotiating building access agreements, developing service and user agreements, and complying with all governmental regulatory requirements. We have helped our telecommunications clients obtain thousands of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licenses, state certificates, antenna registrations, permits and authorizations. Furthermore, our proprietary data systems enable us to closely monitor FCC and state applications, licenses, permits and other authorizations, and manage them effectively for our clients. This includes maintaining accurate records and ensuring timely filing of applications and reports.
Wireless has evolved from being one of the least regulated of telecommunications technologies to among the most regulated. Our veteran lawyers can assist any wireless carrier in complying with complex federal regulations dealing with such topics as net neutrality, customer privacy, universal service, antenna/tower environmental compliance and broadband deployment.
Working hand-in-hand with our experienced teams of antitrust, tax, intellectual property, labor, creditors’ rights, real estate, corporate and securities lawyers, Holland & Knight’s Telecommunications Team also addresses clients’ transactional and dispute resolution matters. We have enabled the development of intelligent buildings, handling the land use, real estate and environmental issues arising from the siting of a wide variety of fiber optic, copper wire and wireless facilities. We have also assisted telecommunications clients with local, municipal and state legal issues.
In addition to representing traditional local exchange and long distance telecommunications companies (foreign and domestic, wireline and wireless), our services include the regulatory, legislative, competitive and enterprise-wide implications raised by the expansion of Internet Protocol-enabled technologies.
Holland & Knight attorneys began representing clients in the area of satellite technology, licensing, distribution and services more than 35 years ago, at the dawn of the commercial satellite industry. Our counsel has been sought by numerous entities in the United States and abroad, not only for federal and international licensing of new facilities and services, but also in the acquisition and leasing of satellite transponder capacity from virtually every major provider in the world.
As a result of considerable consolidation on the provider side, our efforts focus increasingly on the negotiation and implementation of service arrangements, and on addressing the domestic and international regulatory issues that arise as a consequence of these arrangements. In addition to being extremely familiar with FCC rules and policies in this area, our team understands the many international regulatory constraints that are characteristic of this industry — most notably, those imposed by the International Telecommunication Union. We work closely with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Commerce (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) in advocating on behalf of our clients in this area.
The lifeblood of wireless communications is spectrum. Holland & Knight closely monitors all spectrum developments at the FCC and in Congress, enabling us to advise clients on spectrum availability, proposed spectrum constraints and limitations, and other spectrum-related issues that could affect their products and services.
We also help clients understand the means and methods needed to enhance the value of their spectrum and provide the risk-management counsel appropriate in addressing the growing number of health, safety and environmental regulations affecting FCC-licensed transmitters, handsets and other devices that are the source of radiofrequency emissions.
In addition, Holland & Knight is well positioned to advise current and prospective clients on the mechanics and consequences of FCC spectrum auctions — still the primary means by which wireless companies and other technologies are able to gain access to this valuable commodity.
No device producing radiofrequency emissions may be marketed, sold or operated in the United States without appropriate federal regulatory approvals. As a result, our clients often face an individualized licensing effort before the FCC or compliance with service and technical rules for operation in unlicensed spectrum. In either instance, Holland & Knight’s Telecommunications Team is prepared to advise manufacturers and importers of licensed and unlicensed radiofrequency devices, unintentional radiating devices and industrial, scientific and medical devices on regulatory compliance of product design and performance, procedures for obtaining equipment authorizations, compliance with export and import requirements, and licensing of experimental test and developmental programs.
In those cases where existing rules and policies form an obstacle to a new product or service offering, we guide clients in petitioning the FCC for more favorable policies and rules that will permit new product development and monetization.
Manufacturers that are unaware of particular regulatory requirements sometimes market and distribute products that violate FCC rules. In such cases, we advise clients on how to respond to FCC investigative inquiries and on the conduct of enforcement proceedings, including administrative litigation or settlement negotiations and agreements with the FCC.
At Holland & Knight, we understand that telecommunications issues and transactions extend beyond borders. Our core team of telecommunications attorneys in Washington, D.C., has long been engaged in international telecommunications, from managing cross-border issues with Mexico and Canada to providing the advice and assistance necessary to confront the challenges and opportunities created by the increasing privatization of telecommunications facilities and globalization of the industry.
We support a variety of international telecommunications ventures in regard to market entry, as well as the construction and operation of undersea fiber optic cables, satellite and other wireless facilities. We also assist with related entity formation, financing and licensing issues. In addition, we counsel clients with respect to, and represent them before, the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the interagency committee headed by the U.S. Treasury Department for the purpose of ensuring national security objectives are protected.
Holland & Knight's Media Regulatory Team has decades of in-depth experience in broadcasting law, the mechanics and legal implications associated with program distribution, and the regulations and commercial implications of other electronic retransmission (e.g., by cable television systems, direct broadcast satellite systems, and new Internet-based technologies).
Our regular FCC-related work encompasses all matters facing the regulated media industry, including reporting requirements, license applications, resolution of interference issues, and the sale and acquisition of licensed facilities — including all business aspects of such transactions.
Our team is also seasoned in litigating matters before the FCC, whether they be formal or informal complaints, inquiries and investigations, or enforcement actions taken by the FCC and on-the-record, trial-type hearings and FCC rulemaking proceedings. We also counsel clients on the pros and cons of seeking relief in the courts and handle judicial declaratory ruling actions and appeals of regulatory decisions when administrative efforts are not satisfactory.
We represent a wide variety of broadcast clients, from licensees, affiliates and parents of commercial AM and FM radio stations and television stations to noncommercial stations and low-power television and radio stations. We offer advice in many areas that confront broadcasters, including issues involving licensing (both technical and program-related) and affiliation agreements, as well as advertising, intellectual property, environmental, land use, real estate and tax matters.
We also manage all aspects of radio and television station acquisitions and sales, including the drafting and negotiating the corresponding agreements and related tax, financing, securities and environmental considerations required for compliance with federal regulatory requirements. Our team routinely advise clients concerning all aspects of broadcast regulation, including:
- FCC licenses, FCC permits and FCC authorizations
- facilities applications, changes and renewals
- digital TV and radio
- political broadcasting
- children’s television programming
- public service obligations
- TV violence
- indecency and obscenity
- contests and promotions
- identifications and sponsorship
- equal employment opportunity responsibilities
- public inspection files
- antenna and tower structures and registrations
- transmissions and RF radiation
- operational compliance
- closed captioning and new video description requirements
To further assist our clients, we provide the necessary “back-office” support required to easily identify issues, deadlines and other action items, including:
- maintaining extensive databases of all relevant client matters, including applications, public notices, license and permit information, due dates, antenna registrations, transmission characteristics and coordinates, and FCC registrations
- reviewing all FCC public notices, actions, decisions and relevant court decisions
- distributing memoranda on FCC actions
- monitoring radio frequency interference
Network, Syndication and Program Distribution
Our Media Regulation Team provides advice to clients in contract and regulatory issues pertaining to the distribution of audio and video program content, including the intellectual property aspects so important to each player in the distribution chain. In assuming responsibility for drafting and negotiating the agreements that permit this process, whether major network affiliation agreements or less extensive time brokerage and program syndication arrangements, we bring decades of experience to the table. Our attorneys also assist clients with international program distribution arrangements and the technical aspects involved in implementing the physical distribution of content.
MVPD Distribution and Retransmission Agreements
Holland & Knight assists television clients with must-carry arrangements and retransmission consent agreements with cable systems, direct broadcast satellite providers and other Multichannel Video Program Distributors (MVPDs). Television broadcasters have the valued right to require carriage of their respective signals by cable and satellite MVPDs. We assist clients in assuring that these rights are protected and respected. If necessary, this includes seeking administrative remedies at the FCC and judicial remedies in court.
We closely follow the new Internet-based video and audio services being offered in competition with established, regulated industries — those that are facilities-based and over-the-air. We are in the forefront in providing legal counsel on developments in Internet communications, including:
- online program distribution agreements
- policies and regulations promulgated by Federal Trade Commission relating to advertising and direct marketing practices
- the Children’s On-line Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA)
- copyright and trademark implications of commercial online activity
- privacy and data protection
Using Our Resources to Your Advantage
Being part of one of the largest law firms in the United States enables Holland & Knight’s Media Regulatory Team to provide truly comprehensive counsel in the complex regulatory and dispute-related matters that media enterprises must navigate. For example, we have:
- negotiated, along with corporate counsel, a $1.2 billion transaction with established private equity groups to help a client acquire a significant interest in a major broadcast company
- assisted a client in negotiating a new television distribution agreement for a new service in multiple markets, also providing the necessary regulatory counsel
- sought judicial relief from a long-overdue ruling by the FCC with regard to program access by a client MVPD