John T. Nakahata



John Nakahata is a partner and leader of the telecommunications practice in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. His practice focuses on both wired and wireless telecommunications, cable and Internet regulation before the courts, FCC, state public utility commissions, Congress and the Administration.  His clients include large and small telecommunications, Internet, hardware, software, terrestrial wireless companies and cable companies.  He has also testified as an expert witness on telecommunications regulatory issues.

He has a top ranking (Band 1) from Chambers and Partners among Washington, DC telecommunications lawyers.  He advises clients with respect to communications policies and rulemakings, enforcement actions, regulatory compliance and transactional diligence and regulatory approvals.  He has had substantial involvement with, and helped to lead, the major FCC intercarrier compensation, access reform and universal service proceedings since 1996. During his tenure at the FCC from 1995-1998, Nakahata was one of the principal staff involved in the FCC’s implementation of the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, including the FCC’s “competition trilogy” of interconnection, universal service and interstate access charge orders, and for helping to shape the FCC’s approach to Bell applications to provide long distance telephone service.

After leaving the FCC in 1999-2000, Nakahata successfully spearheaded the creation and FCC adoption of the Coalition for Affordable Local and Long Distance Services (CALLS) Plan, the first-ever joint effort by local exchange and long distance carriers—including AT&T, BellSouth, SBC, Sprint and Verizon—comprehensively to reform telecommunications subsidy mechanisms and interstate access pricing. He subsequently represented a group of long distance, competitive local and wireless companies that proposed the reforms that the FCC ultimately adopted in its MAG Order.  Mr. Nakahata also represented a coalition of end users and carriers that proposed to reform federal universal service contribution mechanisms to a per connection system.  Mr. Nakahata has also represented one of the nation’s most successful CLECs with respect to preserving opportunities for CLECs to receive the same universal service support as ILECs when they serve the same areas, as well as to be able to use UNEs on non-discriminatory terms and conditions.  He has advised VoIP provider with respect to regulatory obligations, including FCC fees and intercarrier compensation, including filing petitions regarding VoIP intercarrier compensation with the FCC.

Mr. Nakahata has also counseled and represented both wireless carriers and VoIP providers with respect to the FCC’s evolving E911 requirements.  Mr. Nakahata also has substantial experience with the FCC’s considerations of mergers and acquisitions.  While at the FCC, Mr. Nakahata spearheaded the agency’s consideration of the Bell Atlantic-NYNEX merger.  After leaving the FCC, Mr. Nakahata has handled a variety of transactions that involved FCC approval with respect to transfers of common carrier or wireless (including cable) authorizations.  Among these, Mr. Nakahata handled the first post-WTO Basic Telecom Agreement acquisition of a US carrier by a foreign carrier, which resulted in a landmark FCC decision interpreting the FCC’s post-WTO foreign ownership rules for common carriers.

A past Chair of the Federal Communications Bar Association’s Enforcement Practice Committee, Mr. Nakahata also has represented carriers before the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, with respect to formal complaints, informal complaints, and FCC investigations.  He has successfully negotiated Consent Decrees and other favorable dispositions on behalf of his clients.

From November 1997 until November 1998, Nakahata was the Chief of Staff of the Federal Communications Commission. As Chief of Staff, he oversaw all agency operations and policy development, and was the principal strategic and policy adviser to FCC Chairman William E. Kennard.  Prior to becoming FCC Chief of Staff, Mr. Nakahata served as Senior Legal Adviser to prior FCC Chairman, Reed E. Hundt, Acting Deputy Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau, and Associate General Counsel for Competition.

Mr. Nakahata also served as a subcommittee staff director and legislative counsel to United States Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut). In that capacity, he helped to shape and to pass the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, and he organized Senate hearings that resulted in the development and widespread adoption of a voluntary content rating system for video games.  Mr. Nakahata earned a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Mr. Nakahata is recognized as a leading telecommunications lawyer in numerous publications, including Chambers USAThe Legal 500Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers.


Harvard Law School, J.D.

Wesleyan University, B.A.


Hon. John H. Pratt, U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia


Chambers USA, 2020



At HWG, we’re always looking for smart, talented people to add to our team.


  • 1919 M Street NW, Eighth Floor
    Washington, DC 20036-3537
  • 1033 Wade Ave, Suite 100
    Raleigh, NC 27605-1155