The communications industry, encompassing information technology and numerous existing and emerging channels and media, is both an industry unto itself and a powerful driving force behind the business world at large. Business today depends on information infrastructure—including many new and innovative ways to support and deliver vital business and consumer intelligence. Facing complex regulatory, market and competitive challenges, today’s communications leaders require counsel experienced in a wide range of industries, practices, markets and courts, on both the domestic and international fronts. The communications and information technology practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is committed to providing experienced, effective, results-oriented representation. With power, purpose and precision, we help to communicate a clear path to success. Then we help to guide the way, creating new opportunities for our clients and the vital communications channels, technologies and programs they support.
Innovative technologies require innovative representation. Akin Gump lawyers take pride in developing bold new solutions to the myriad challenges our clients face—never losing sight of our clients’ strategic objectives or of the premium placed on speed in this fast-moving, high-performing and global arena. But vision without diligence is folly, and at Akin Gump our approach is backed by the global reach and interdisciplinary resources of one of the world’s largest full-service firms. Akin Gump’s diversified communications practice includes domestic and international regulatory, policy, transactional, financial restructuring and litigation representation of clients in all segments of the communications industry.
Akin Gump’s communications practice represents clients before domestic and international regulatory agencies regarding the formulation of policy in the United States, the European Union (EU) and elsewhere and also with regard to a wide range of day-to-day compliance issues. We have represented our clients’ interests before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; the departments of Commerce, Justice and State; the U.S. Trade Representative; the National Aeronautics and Space Agency; the U.S. Information Agency; and Congress. We also represent clients involved in all types of transactions, from routine to complex, including transactions involving securities, mergers and acquisitions, commercial arrangements and joint ventures. We have a proven track record of helping communications businesses disentangle the web of regulatory issues that, left unchecked, might have delayed or derailed important new products or services.
The communications practice focuses on five major areas:
- telecommunications, including wireless, wireline/common carrier and broadband
- satellite communications
- mass media and cable
- distressed companies and financial restructuring
- equipment manufacturers.
We help clients navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape applicable to the wireless, wireline/common carrier and broadband telecommunications industry, including legacy voice communications and all manners of broadband connectivity. We practice regularly before the FCC, various state regulatory agencies and the courts. We monitor, analyze and participate in FCC rulemakings on behalf of clients; assist clients to interpret and comply with FCC and state public utility commission regulations; and assist clients to secure and transfer state and federal telecommunications licenses.
Akin Gump lawyers have extensive experience in all aspects of domestic and international telecommunications transactions and have served as counsel to telecommunications carriers, equipment manufacturers, broadband companies and other industry service providers at every stage of development. We represent and advise:
- foreign governments regarding the privatization of their government-owned telecommunications facilities
- international and domestic businesses in restructuring, sales and acquisitions, development of new infrastructure and a host of other commercial arrangements
- Fortune 500 companies with respect to their communications and information technology vendor arrangements
- financial lenders, underwriters and private equity funds in relation to investments (i.e., securities or bond offerings) and sales and acquisitions of telecommunications companies.
The communications practice has extensive skills and experience involving commercial, private and unlicensed wireless services in both the domestic and international marketplaces. We advise and represent companies and individuals that are involved in the wireless industry as service providers, vendors, lenders and end-users. Our lawyers are involved in all phases of various wireless licensing processes and have been counsel to several major wireless carriers, including cellular, broadband wireless, PCS, paging and air-to-ground carriers.
On the transactional side, lawyers in the communications practice routinely handle the negotiation and drafting of a wide variety of intercarrier, carrier-user and carrier-vendor agreements, including telecommunications services agreements, management agreements, interconnection agreements, roaming agreements and equipment and facility purchase agreements.
Our recent experience includes:
- representing consumer groups and wireless carriers regarding various issues related to tower siting, including environmental issues and the national programmatic agreement
- representing a regional Midwestern wireless telecommunications company with respect to its application for broadband stimulus funding
- representing private equity groups in the acquisition of a major national wireless company and its subsequent sale to another national wireless company
- representing several regional and national wireless mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and wireless resellers with respect to all aspects of regulatory licensing and compliance, as well as with respect to various vendor arrangements
- representing a major cable company with respect to the negotiation of roaming and reseller arrangements with a wireless provider
- representing wireless companies participating in wireless license auctions.
Our communications lawyers monitor and analyze daily the evolving regulatory landscape facing incumbents, competitors and investors. We also assist clients to understand and comply with the detailed regulatory regimes facing wireline common carriers, such as truth-in-billing regulations, nondiscrimination and tariffing regulations, Universal Service Fund (and other regulatory fund) contribution and subsidy requirements, customer proprietary network information (CPNI) rules, interconnection requirements and numerous other federal and state regulations. Further, in conjunction with the firm’s domestic policy practice, the communications practice regularly represents communications industry clients before Congress and other federal and state legislative bodies with respect to communications policy matters.
Our recent experience includes:
- representing a national wireline carrier with respect to local and state regulations governing use of public rights of way, including policy initiatives, valuation exercises, preemption efforts and compliance lawsuits
- representing multiple clients with respect to Universal Service Fund contribution obligation disputes and compliance as well as to application for certain Universal Service Fund subsidies
- providing regional and national clients with regulatory and transactional guidance with respect to interconnection agreements and interconnection-related disputes.
We have been active participants in regulatory and legislative proceedings related to broadband communications and Internet access for over a decade. We assist commercial broadband providers and residential Internet access providers to monitor and influence the rapidly evolving regulatory framework applicable to broadband and to determine the appropriate application of these regulations to new broadband and Internet protocol-based technologies.
Our recent experience includes:
- assisting a regional wireline telecommunications company to apply for broadband stimulus funding and assisted several other telecommunications companies to evaluate whether to apply for broadband funding
- assisting broadband equipment manufacturers to participate in FCC proceedings relating to net neutrality and network management
- assisting various private equity groups and hedge funds to evaluate the likely impact of the evolving FCC regulatory regime applicable to broadband on the valuation of various broadband sectors
- assisting an electric utility to evaluate the regulation of broadband over power lines.
International Telecommunications Regulation and Policy
The communications practice advises U.S. telecommunications companies seeking to enter regulated foreign markets and represents such companies before the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the European Commission (EC) and other foreign regulatory agencies. Our lawyers also help foreign telecommunications companies to enter the U.S. market in compliance with all applicable U.S. telecommunications regulations.
Our recent experience includes:
- assisting a major international operator of transoceanic submarine cables to apply for various licenses authorizing entry into the U.S. market
- advising a foreign telecommunications company with respect to the regulatory framework applicable to its U.S. operations
- assisting domestic and international companies to obtain international Section 214 authorizations to provide international telecommunications services in the United States.
The communications practice has substantial transactional and regulatory experience in the domestic and international satellite communications field. Our regulatory representation of satellite companies has involved virtually all types of satellite communications services, including:
- domestic and international mobile satellite services (MSS)
- global broadband fixed satellite services (FSS)
- direct-to-home (DTH), direct broadcast satellite (DBS), and broadcast satellite service (BSS)
- digital audio radio satellite (DARS) service
- remote sensing satellite services
- domestic and international aeronautical satellite services
- cutting-edge, next-generation global satellite services using optical wave technology.
Our experience includes advising clients on regulatory issues relating to the domestic allocation and assignment and international coordination of spectrum for satellite services, authorization and licensing requirements, satellite market entry and regulatory compliance. We also represent satellite clients with respect to satellite industry mergers and acquisitions, as well as in the negotiation and drafting of various types of commercial arrangements.
We represent a variety of satellite-related companies—including satellite system operators, companies developing integrated satellite-terrestrial networks, satellite license applicants, ground segment providers and resellers—before the FCC and various other domestic and international regulatory bodies. We also frequently assist financial institutions and private equity firms in the evaluation of regulatory issues related to potential investments in, or financing of, satellite operations, including both ground segment and space segment operations.
Mass Media and Cable
Our communications lawyers represent clients with television, radio and cable system interests, from top-four networks and large broadcast groups to local cable franchisees and individual station owners. Our diverse practice in the broadcast and cable arenas includes providing policy advice and advocacy in a broad range of FCC inquiries and rulemaking proceedings and congressional and executive branch activity, as well as assistance with day-to-day licensing and compliance issues. We provide multidimensional representation based on a comprehensive understanding of the industry from the regulatory, policy and commercial perspectives. Our lawyers regularly collaborate with lawyers from the firm’s other practices, including corporate, litigation, tax, financial restructuring, intellectual property and public law and policy, to develop creative solutions in media-related projects.
Our recent experience includes:
- assisting a top-four network in developing advocacy strategy and preparing filings for various rulemaking broadcast-related regulatory proceedings
- developing and effecting digital television implementation strategy for group owner of local commercial broadcast stations
- negotiating asset purchase agreements for sale and purchase of commercial radio and television stations, including both regional and national station groups, and preparing and prosecuting applications seeking regulatory consent for such transactions
- providing day-to-day compliance advice to various broadcasters regarding a wide range of broadcast regulations and policy initiatives, including enforcement actions.
Distressed Companies and Financial Restructuring
Akin Gump lawyers have significant experience in the strategic and creative financial restructuring of distressed telecommunications and technology companies from the perspective of the company, the lenders and other creditors. Communications lawyers work closely with lawyers from the firm’s corporate and financial restructuring practices to provide telecommunications regulatory and industry counsel in the context of large and complex bankruptcy proceedings. For example, Akin Gump represented the Official Unsecured Creditors’ Committee in the WorldCom reorganization, the largest corporate bankruptcy in history, in numerous regulatory issues, including the FCC’s Triennial Review Proceedings.
The firm represents a number of key manufacturers of telecommunications equipment, much of which is subject to the FCC’s complex equipment authorization procedures and other technical rules. Our work on behalf of these manufacturers includes advice on pending legislation, prosecution of rulemaking petitions, assistance in obtaining requisite equipment authorizations, representation in FCC enforcement actions and assistance in litigation involving allegations of noncompliance with FCC rules. We also advise equipment manufacturers regarding the substantive areas of FCC regulation, such as the wireline common carrier area, with respect to the implications that existing regulations and proposed changes in the regulation of such areas may have on manufacturers’ existing products and services, proposed product offerings and market demand.