We Assist Telecommunications Companies, Contractors, and Others with All Aspects of FCC Compliance
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates the telecommunications industry in the United States. It also plays a role in promoting competition as well as promoting access to communications systems through its E-Rate, Lifeline, and Rural Health Care Programs. The FCC’s enforcement jurisdiction is extremely broad; and, as a result, telecommunications companies, FCC contractors, program participants, and other businesses and institutions must all give due consideration to their FCC compliance obligations.
What does it take to maintain FCC compliance? The answer to this question varies between companies and institutions. All companies and institutions must take a custom-tailored approach to FCC compliance, and they must ensure that their compliance policies, procedures, and protocols adequately address their specific obligations and risks. Even among companies and institutions that share similar compliance burdens, no two FCC compliance programs will be exactly alike—as each entity’s program must reflect not only the unique aspects of its operations and products or services, but also its geographic reach, target audience, and various other factors.
About Our FCC Compliance Practice
The attorneys in our FCC compliance practice have extensive experience guiding private-sector companies, government contractors, financial institutions, academic institutions, and other clients through all aspects of the federal compliance management process. This includes managing FCC compliance. Since our firm represents clients in FCC investigations and other federal enforcement matters as well, we are able to draw not only on our experience helping companies and institutions avoid scrutiny, but also on our experience helping entities respond to past compliance failures. We understand the FCC’s expectations and enforcement priorities, and we use this knowledge to help our clients implement effective FCC compliance programs.
Within our FCC compliance practice, we assist our clients with everything from assessing their compliance obligations to developing, implementing, and auditing compliance policies and procedures. We provide FCC compliance representation for:
- Carriers and other telecommunications companies
- Other private and publicly-traded entities that are subject to FCC rules and regulations
- Government contractors doing business with the FCC
- Academic institutions, health care institutions, and other entities participating in FCC programs
- Manufacturers and other businesses involved in the manufacture and sale of regulated goods and services
When many of our clients come to us, they do not have a clear understanding of their FCC compliance obligations—much less what it takes to meet these obligations. We guide our clients forward step-by-step, taking a systematic approach to not only ensuring that they have the necessary compliance tools, but also ensuring that they understand what it takes to effectively manage FCC compliance on an ongoing basis.
FCC Compliance for Carriers and Other Companies
The FCC regulates carriers and other companies involved in all sectors of the telecommunications industry. It also regulates companies that manufacture and sell wireless devices, digital signs, and a wide range of other products and services. We guide these companies through the process of evaluating and addressing their compliance obligations—as identified in the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC’s regulations, the FCC’s compliance guides, and other pertinent sources of federal authority.
FCC Compliance for Contractors
Contractors doing business with the FCC must comply not only with the multitude of laws and regulations that apply to government contractors generally, but also with the laws and regulations falling specifically within the FCC’s enforcement jurisdiction. We assist FCC contractors with all aspects of compliance, from False Claims Act (FCA) compliance to compliance with the FCC’s device, data security, and other requirements.
FCC Compliance for Program Participants
While the FCC’s E-Rate, Lifeline, and Rural Health Care Programs provide crucial benefits to program participants, these benefits come with many strings attached. FCC program participants must proactively take steps to ensure that they are prepared to meet these programs’ requirements, and they must have adequate protocols and systems in place to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA) throughout their participation. We provide custom-tailored compliance representation to FCC program participants as well, including academic institutions, health care institutions, and other entities.
7 Key Aspects of an Effective FCC Compliance Program
Like all areas of federal compliance, FCC compliance requires a proactive approach focused on meeting an entity’s statutory and regulatory obligations in order to avoid triggering FCC scrutiny. At Oberheiden P.C., our approach to federal compliance—including FCC compliance—involves:
1. Compliance Needs Assessment
Companies and institutions’ FCC compliance obligations vary depending on the nature of their business, the size and geographic disbursement of their operations, and a variety of other factors. Before we put any time and effort into developing a compliance program, we start by gaining a clear understanding of each client’s specific compliance needs.
2. Compliance Strategy Development
Once we have a clear understanding of a company or institution’s compliance needs, we can then focus on compliance strategy development. What is necessary to establish compliance—and to maintain compliance on an ongoing basis. Again, entities’ needs can vary widely, and working from a custom-tailored strategy is essential for both developing an effective compliance program and avoiding unnecessary efforts.
3. Compliance Policies and Procedures
One thing all FCC compliance programs have in common is a foundation in well-drafted policies and procedures. Relying on our experience as FCC compliance and defense counsel, we draft policies and procedures that not only address our clients’ specific compliance obligations, but also are designed to facilitate implementation and ongoing compliance management.
4. Compliance Program Implementation
Compliance program implementation is an essential—and often overlooked—step toward effective compliance management. Once a company or institution has the necessary policies and procedures, it must take adequate steps to implement these policies and procedures on an organization-wide scale. Among other things, this means providing appropriate training to all relevant personnel, instituting systems and safeguards, and having procedures in place to document the company or institution’s compliance efforts so that it can prove compliance when necessary.
5. Compliance Program Monitoring and Enforcement
Along with initial implementation, ongoing monitoring and enforcement are also critical. Companies and institutions must proactively assess whether their FCC compliance programs are working as intended, and they must take action when employees fail to meet their individual responsibilities. As part of the implementation process, companies and institutions should make their intentions to enforce compliance clear, while at the same time fostering a compliance-first environment and encouraging employees to come forward when they have concerns.
6. Compliance Needs Re-Assessment
As companies and institutions grow and evolve, their FCC compliance obligations can change. The FCC regularly publishes new compliance guidance as well. As a result, companies and institutions must rely on their counsel to re-assess their compliance obligations and recommend updates as necessary.
7. Documentation of Ongoing Compliance
As noted above, companies and institutions that are subject to the FCC’s oversight should be prepared to affirmatively demonstrate compliance to the FCC. The FCC regularly conducts audits and investigations; and, when facing scrutiny, having documentation on hand that shows sufficient regard for an entity’s compliance duties can help facilitate a swift and favorable resolution.
FAQs: Effectively Managing FCC Compliance in the 21st Century
What types of companies need to address FCC compliance?
FCC compliance is a concern for companies in a broad range of industries. Along with carriers and other telecommunications companies, this includes companies that manufacture and sell phones, televisions, signs, and other types of communication-enabled devices. Contractors working with the FCC must adequately address compliance as well. Finally, companies and institutions that participate in FCC programs (i.e., the E-Rate, Lifeline, and Rural Health Care Programs) must ensure that they comply with these programs’ rules and requirements—as well as the federal prohibitions on false claims.
What are the main areas of FCC compliance?
The main areas of FCC compliance include communications, security, product certification, and program compliance. Within each of these broad areas, companies and institutions can face a variety of specific statutory and regulatory obligations—and identifying these obligations is a key first step toward effective FCC compliance management.
How can I identify my company or institution’s FCC compliance obligations?
Identifying a company or institution’s FCC compliance obligations involves engaging experienced federal compliance counsel. Even within specific industries and industry sectors, individual companies and institutions’ compliance obligations can vary widely, and it is critical for all entities to implement compliance programs that address their specific risks and needs.
How important is FCC compliance?
In today’s world, FCC compliance is extremely important. The FCC regularly conducts audits and investigations, and these inquiries can lead to substantial penalties for non-compliant entities.
What are the risks of failing to maintain FCC compliance?
The FCC has the authority to directly impose administrative and civil penalties in cases of non-compliance. These include cease-and-desist orders, civil monetary penalties (CMP), restitution, and property seizures, among others. When compliance failures have criminal implications (i.e., in the case of an intentional false claim or other compliance failure), the FCC can refer cases to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal prosecution.
Speak with an FCC Compliance Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C.
Do you have questions about FCC compliance? If so, we invite you to contact us for more information. Please call 888-680-1745 or inquire online to schedule an appointment with an FCC compliance lawyer at Oberheiden P.C.