Communications & Media

Our Communications & Media lawyers have been involved in every major U.S. regulatory and legislative proceeding concerning the communications and media industries of the past 25 years. Many also have significant prior experience in the public sector, having served at the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, or the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

We represent a diverse group of U.S. and multinational clients, including cable television operators, programmers, competitive local exchange carriers, long-distance service providers, mobile wireless carriers, satellite service providers, undersea cable operators, equipment manufacturers, software developers, Internet service providers, on-line content providers, broadcast licensees, and industry trade associations.

We offer a wide array of services, including participating in rulemaking and adjudicatory proceedings before U.S. and European regulatory authorities, drafting and analyzing communications legislation, negotiating complex communications and media contracts, representing clients in competition reviews and enforcement proceedings, and assessing the risks associated with intellectual property policies in organizations that establish technical standards.

We also provide strategic advice on business matters ranging from product development to strategies for ongoing regulatory compliance. Clients often rely on us in devising their business plans. We also have extensive transactional experience, guiding clients through regulatory approval procedures and advising them on the impact of communications issues on complex deals, such as debt and equity financings, strategic acquisitions and divestitures, and restructurings. Finally, we have broad experience in e-commerce law.

Some of our recent significant engagements include:

Cable TV and Media

  • Comcast-NBCUniversal Transactions and Ongoing Compliance, and Time Warner Cable Acquisition

    We represented Comcast Corporation on the regulatory aspects of its $30 billion joint venture with General Electric to create NBCUniversal, LLC., in which Comcast held 51%.  The transaction was approved with conditions by the FCC on 1/20/11.  The deal is one of the most significant media and communications transactions in recent years, as it combined the nation’s largest subscription video distributor with a leading provider of high-value content and involved the consideration of virtually all aspects of the media landscape.  We also served as FCC regulatory counsel to Comcast in connection with its subsequent acquisition in 2013 of the remaining 49% common equity stake in NBCUniversal from GE.   The firm continues to advise on the significant regulatory compliance aspects associated with the FCC Order approving the transaction.  This has included, among other things, drafting contracts, providing recommendations for negotiation positions, and conducting arbitration proceedings with parties seeking access to valuable NBCUniversal television and film content.  In the first such arbitration of its kind (the “Project Concord” matter), the FCC’s Media Bureau agreed with Willkie’s advocacy and rejected an arbitrator’s interpretation and application of a key arbitration provision.  Additionally, we are leading the effort to secure FCC regulatory approval for Comcast’s approximately $45.2 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable Inc., announced in February 2014.

  • Program Carriage Victories

    Willkie represented Comcast Corporation in a program carriage rulemaking at the FCC and several program carriage litigations.  In each case, the positions and strategy we developed resulted in successful outcomes.  Three different federal circuit courts of appeal agreed with Willkie’s advocacy -- in reversing an FCC order in the Tennis Channel matter, rejecting an FCC program carriage rule as unlawful, and upholding an FCC order in the WealthTV matter. 

  • Representation on Internet Issues

    We represented Comcast in the FCC’s rulemaking adopting network neutrality rules for ISPs and in an FCC adjudication involving BitTorrent.  We also have represented Comcast and other entities in FCC rulemakings establishing accessibility requirements for various online services.  We have provided strategic advice to clients on the development of new Internet-related products and services, and also advised clients on legislative proposals affecting the Internet.

  • Arris/Motorola/Pace: Representation Concerning Regulation of Consumer Video and Broadband Equipment

    We represent Arris and other equipment manufacturers in various regulatory and legislative proceedings relating to the regulation of cable set-top boxes, cable modems, and other consumer broadband equipment and provide strategic advice regarding regulatory compliance and business planning issues surrounding such equipment.  We secured a change in FCC rules to allow for the deployment of cable set-top box equipment containing embedded security critical to the cable industry’s transition to all-digital service.  We also have played a key role for the cable industry in pending federal rulemakings on energy conservation, encryption, and accessibility requirements for cable equipment. 

  • National Cable & Telecommunications Association/Defeated Legislation to Regulate Cable Operator Packaging of Services; Advice Regarding Overhaul of Communications Act

    We represent NCTA on a wide variety of regulatory and legislative matters affecting cable operators and cable programmers. We are also advising NCTA and other clients regarding possible attempts by Congress to overhaul the Communications Act.

  • Home Box Office, YES Network, Bloomberg Television, and iNDEMAND/Representation of Cable TV Programmers before the FCC and Congress

    We represent numerous cable TV programmers, including Home Box Office, YES Network, Bloomberg Television, and iNDEMAND on a wide cross-section of issues before the FCC and Congress.  We have successfully represented these entities in limiting the must-carry rights of broadcasters on cable systems, and in avoiding an expansion of program access restrictions.

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Wireline Communications

  • tw telecom, Level 3 and Other Competitive Local Exchange Carriers/Representation Concerning Local Competition and Related Issues

    We have served as FCC counsel for the largest and most prominent competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) in the country, including tw telecom, EarthLink, Cbeyond, Integra, Level 3, and BT Americas, in a wide range of FCC proceedings.  These include rulemakings, adjudications, forbearance proceedings, merger review proceedings, and tariff review proceedings.  Recently, we have represented these companies in FCC rulemakings concerning the IP technology transition, VoIP interconnection, special access reform, intercarrier compensation and universal service reform, and broadband policy.  We also advise companies on compliance with relevant FCC regulations.

  • CLEC Coalition/Representation in Special Access Reform Proceeding

    We represent a coalition of CLECs, including tw telecom, EarthLink, Cbeyond, Integra, Level 3, and BT Americas in the FCC’s review of the $20 billion market for business broadband services known as special access services.

  • CLEC Coalition/Representation in Technology Transition Proceeding

    We represent a coalition of CLECs, including tw telecom, EarthLink, Cbeyond, Integra, and Level 3 in the FCC’s review of regulatory changes needed in connection with the industry’s transition from legacy technologies, such as time-division multiplexing, to IP and packet-based technologies. 

  • CLEC Coalition/Representation in Reform of Intercarrier Compensation and Universal Service

    We represent a coalition of CLECs, including tw telecom, EarthLink, Cbeyond, and Integra, in the FCC’s comprehensive review of the rates telecommunications carriers charge for the exchange of voice traffic and of the system, known as universal service, for subsidizing services provided in high-cost areas. 

  • tw telecom/Representation in Reform of Pole Attachment Rules

    We represented tw telecom in the FCC’s comprehensive proceeding concerning the rates, terms, and conditions on which providers of telecommunications services may access poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way owned by utilities.  In the proceeding, we persuaded the FCC to largely eliminate the differential in pole attachment rates paid by CLECs and other telecommunications carriers on the one hand and cable companies on the other hand. 

  • Level 3 Communications/Global Crossing Limited

    We represented Level 3 Communications in its tax-free, stock-for-stock acquisition of Global Crossing Limited. The $3B transaction, announced in April 2011, creates a premier global communications provider with an owned network in more than 50 countries and connections to more than 70 countries.

  • Level 3/Broadwing

    We represented Level 3 Communications Inc. in its agreement to purchase Broadwing Corporation, a publicly held provider of optical network communications services, for $1.4 billion in cash and stock.  Level 3 is an international communications and information services company that operates one of the largest communications and Internet backbones in the world.

  • Level 3 Communications/Acquisition of WilTel

    We represented Level 3 Communications, Inc. in its agreement to acquire WilTel Communications Group, LLC. from Leucadia National Corporation for 115 million shares of Level 3 common stock and $370 million cash, a total deal value of approximately $680 million.

  • Level 3 Communications/Representation to Avoid Voice Over Internet Protocol Regulation

    We advised the German subsidiary of Level 3 Communications in a comprehensive hearing initiated by the German Regulatory Authority for Telecommunication and Post on the future regulation of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services in Germany.

  • Level 3 Communications/German National Infrastructure Projects

    We represent the German subsidiary of Level 3 Communications in the structuring of its national telecommunications infrastructure and network, including shared trenching, duct construction, and duct leases, as well as right-of-way agreements and permits.  We are principal legal and regulatory counsel to Level 3 Communications in Germany.

  • Telefonos de Mexico/Acquisition of AT&T’s Latin American Assets

    We assisted Telmex in obtaining the government approvals necessary for its acquisition of the assets of AT&T Latin America.

  • UUNET/Negotiation of Government Contract on Nationwide Data Network in Germany

    We have advised the German subsidiary of the MCI group UUNET Deutschland GmbH in the negotiation and implementation of a government contract on the operation of a nationwide data network for German administrations, including subcontractor agreements.

  • Viatel/Refinancing

    We have advised Viatel on the German portion of the €50 million refinancing of the Viatel group.  We continue to advise Viatel on German legal and regulatory issues.

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Wireless Communications

  • Spectrum Policy Issues

    Willkie provides strategic advice to clients on a wide range of spectrum policy issues before the FCC and Congress, including the groundbreaking “incentive auction” of broadcast TV spectrum and proposals for additional unlicensed spectrum.  We have drafted pleadings and other advocacy documents for FCC rulemaking proceedings, prepared testimony for clients appearing at Congressional hearings, and counseled clients on regulatory and commercial implications for their services and products.

  • SpectrumCo's Sale of Wireless Licenses to Verizon

    Willkie represented Comcast Corporation and SpectrumCo (a joint venture of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and BrightHouse) in the sale of AWS spectrum to Verizon Wireless.  The transaction also included cross-marketing agreements between the companies and the formation of a technology development joint venture.  The legal and regulatory approvals for the transaction were obtained from the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission in August 2012.

  • Best Buy/Representation in Strategic Wholesale Relationship with Clearwire

    We assisted Best Buy Co., Inc. in the formation of a strategic wholesale relationship between its subsidiary Best Buy Connect, LLC and Clearwire Corporation, making Best Buy the first major wholesaler outside of Clearwire's strategic investors to Join Clearwire's 4G "Network of Networks" and offer service under the Best Buy name.

  • New Entrants/Representation Regarding Issues Associated With Entry Into the U.S. Market

    We advise prospective and nascent entrants into the U.S. mobile wireless market on regulatory compliance and business issues associated with such entry.

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UnderSea Cable

  • Digicel Investments Limited

    We have advised Digicel Investments Limited regarding the proposed acquisition of the Antilles Crossing undersea cable system and related assets.

  • Columbia Ventures Corp./Obtained FCC Approval for Assignment of Hibernia Atlantic Cable

    We obtained FCC approval for the acquisition of the Hibernia Atlantic cable system, connecting North America with Europe, by Columbia Ventures Corp.

  • FLAG Telecom Group Limited/Obtained FCC Approval for Transfer of Control of FLAG Undersea Cable Network

    We represented the investors in the FLAG Telecom Group Limited, the owner and operator of a global undersea cable network. We initially provided advice on the regulatory implications of the transaction, both in the U.S. and internationally, and then obtained FCC approval for a transfer of control of the FCC licensees to the reorganized company.

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Broadcasting

  • NBCUniversal

    We advise NBCUniversal on a host of FCC-related issues involving its NBC and Telemundo broadcast stations, including ownership, license transfer, spectrum, and other regulatory issues.  We also advise and represent the client in connection with various broadcast-related conditions imposed by the FCC as part of the Comcast-NBCUniversal transaction.

    In addition, we assist NBCUniversal in retransmission consent proceedings and negotiations, and advise the client on a wide range of issues involving affiliate stations, TV Everywhere, and MVPD and OVD licensing issues.

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Communications-Related Litigation

The Firm’s related litigation services have involved a vast array of cutting-edge issues and developments in the communications and media industries, including representing clients in:

Communications-Related Litigation

  • Litigations, arbitrations, and negotiations relating to programming licenses and renewals for film, cable television networks, and regional sports networks, involving major cable television operators, satellite service providers, and on-line video distributors;
  • Retransmission consent negotiations and disputes involving broadcast programming;
  • Rulemaking and adjudicatory proceedings before the FCC;
  • Appeals of FCC rules and regulations;
  • Mandamus proceedings against federal agencies;
  • Network rebrands; and
  • Complex commercial litigations.
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