ISP License in the USA?

Eric Flanery (eric) eric at
Tue May 31 18:54:38 UTC 2016

There is no such thing as an 'ISP license' in the US. I have a hard time
imagining Texas of all places would have such a requirement.

Depending on what exactly you are doing, there are various and highly
varied requirements, such as acquiring a SPIN number for E-Rate, filing FCC
477 if you do broadband, FCC 499 if you do VoIP (CLEC and ETC also apply
there), a FRN if you do pretty much anything FCC-related, various sorts of
licenses for most radio/microwave systems (excepting part 15 stuff), CALEA,
open internet, etc...

COALS _could_ apply _if_ you are running a cable TV system that also
delivers data services, but it isn't an 'ISP thing'.

More to the point...

I wouldn't take US legal advice from any consultant not familiar with US
law, or really any non-lawyer consultant at all. I wouldn't take it from
NANOG either; while it's a tremendous technical resource, it is not your

There are a number of telecommunications focused law firms out there, with
knowledgeable lawyers. It would be a good idea to establish a relationship
with one, if you intend to enter the increasingly complex legal minefield
of being an ISP.


On Tue, May 31, 2016 at 11:24 AM, Dan White <dwhite at> wrote:

> Not familiar with the process, but look at E-rate if you want to provide
> service to schools, libraries and health providers.
> On 05/31/16 13:14 -0500, Lorell Hathcock wrote:
>> Our owner has hired a consultant who insists that we should have an ISP
>> license to operate in the United States.  (Like they have in other
>> countries
>> like Germany and in Africa where he has extensive personal experience.)
>> I am asking him to tell me which license we should have because I don't
>> know
>> of a license that we are required to have to route IP traffic to end
>> customers.
>> I am familiar with CLEC status filed with our state.  But it is not a
>> requirement to pass traffic.
>> He is suggesting COALS with which I am completely unfamiliar.
>> Can anyone tell me if there is a Texas state and/or USA Federal license
>> for
>> a small operator to pass IP traffic from the internet to end users
>> (commercial and/or residential).
>> I am aware that there are some CALEA requirements of ISPs that seem to
>> kick
>> in once a CALEA request is made, but is that different from a license.
> --
> Dan White
> BTC Broadband

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