The FCC is interested in any experiences, knowledge, or insights that members of the public may have which shed light on issues and questions raised in the rule making process. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, the public and industry have the opportunity to comment upon Petitions for Rule Making, Notices of Inquiry, Notices of Proposed Rulemaking, Report and Orders and other FCC proceedings. One need not be a lawyer to be able to file comments with the FCC; all that is necessary is an interest in an issue and the ability to read and follow directions. Important: The various proceedings often have tight comment periods in which they will accept Comments on a particular matter.
Amateurs can find information on the FCC rulemaking process. This includes the various types of pleadings, information needed in the filing and address to send the filing, either by hard copy or electronically using the FCC Electronic Comment Filing System.
The Administrative Procedure Act allows for public participation in FCC matters. The most common types of proceedings are:
Comments are just that--your views on a particular matter. In your comments, tell the FCC what you think about the subject topic and why you support or oppose the Commission's proposals or the proposals of others. Prior to drafting Comments, it is crucial to read and understand fully the item you wish to comment on. Usually, the NPRM, NOI, or other item will specify and invite comment upon the issue(s) that the Commission is interested in studying further. Examination of the issue(s) and relevant documents is the most important part of the comment process. Comments (and Reply Comments) may take any form, but below are some hints to assist you in writing them as well as submitting other documents to the FCC.
After initial Comments are filed, there is an additional period for responding to the first set of Comments. During this second phase, you can file Reply Comments. In your Reply Comments you can review what others have said in their initial Comments, and then support or disagree.
The Commission releases an NOI for the purpose of gathering information about a broad subject or as a means of generating ideas on a specific issue. NOIs are initiated either by the Commission or an outside request.
After reviewing comments from the public, the FCC may issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. An NPRM contains proposed changes to the Commission's rules and seeks public comment on these proposals. This essentially is the FCC stating "This is what we are going to do unless we have convincing information not to or to convince us why we should modify the proceeding."
After considering comments to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking , the FCC issues a Report and Order. The R&O may develop new rules, amend existing rules or make a decision not to do so. Summaries of the R&O are published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register summary will tell you when a rule change will become effective. This is usually the FCC's final word in a rulemaking matter.
Sometimes, people want to make rule changes in a new procedure. An individual may file a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC. This is not a short statement with lots of signatures, but specific reasoning as to why a particular rule change is needed along with any technical data and specific text of how the petitioner feels the rules should be changed.
Required Information for Filing Comments in FCC Proceedings
Rulemaking proceedings at the FCC are assigned docket numbers. Each docket number lists a Bureau, a year and a specific number assigned to that proceeding (e.g., MM #99-001= 1999 Mass Media Proceeding Number 1). If you are submitting a document that pertains to a docketed proceeding, you must put the docket number on your filing so that the FCC makes sure that your filing is routed properly. The FCC regulates a wide range of services. We amateurs are very familiar with amateur matters, the FCC mailroom might not be so familiar.
It is critical for amateurs to put the proper docket number on the filing.
When filing by paper, you must file only one (1) original plus four (4) copies of Comments, Reply Comments or Petitions for Rule Making. If you want all the Commissioners to receive copies, file one (1) original plus nine (9) copies. The original is always to be UNSTAPLED, while the copies should be STAPLED.
When filing by paper, all filings must be in 12 point type, or legibly written.
When filing by paper, you need to place an original signature above your typed or clearly printed name
If your document contains information you wish withheld from public inspection, you must write " Confidential, Not for Public Inspection" on the upper right hand corner of each page. The documents should then be placed in an envelope also marked "Confidential, Not for Public Inspection."
Effective December 18, 2001, you must send the filing, if by paper, to the appropriate address below. If you want the FCC to acknowledge receipt of your package, include an extra copy of the first page of your filing and enclose a postage stamped, self-addressed envelope. The Commission will then stamp the page and return it to you. Use the following address, where appropriate:
If you are sending this type of document or using this delivery method...
Use this FCC Address...
Hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission's Secretary
236 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Suite 110, Washington, DC 20002 (8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.)
Other messenger-delivered documents, including documents sent by overnight mail (other than United States Postal Service Express Mail and Priority Mail)
9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743 (8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
United States Postal Service first-class mail, Express Mail, and Priority Mail
445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554
Amateurs can also file documents with the FCC for all docketed and rulemaking proceedings through the Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) after first obtaining the instructions for doing so by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following words noted in the body of the message: "get form (insert your e-mail address)". ECFS accepts documents 24 hours a day with a midnight filing deadline. The official receipt for electronic filings will reflect Monday through Friday dates, except legal holidays.
Important Note: Do not put "Get Form" in the subject line of your comments, just in the message you send to get the instructions. Also, unless you receive a confirmation message that begins with the following in the first two lines, your comments have NOT been accepted by the robot:
ECFS Received your Submission/Request at (date and time)
ECFS Accepted your Submission at (date and time)
Filing e-comments is easy, but finding documents is not always simple: Viewing petitions and even filing electronic comments on them via the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System is fairly easy but not without pitfalls. You need to know the system's idiosyncrasies. Start out by going to the ECFS site. To view a petition for rule making that the FCC has put on public notice plus any comments already filed, click on "Search for Filed Comments" at the left-hand side of screen. This will return a list of all documents associated with that proceeding, including the filed petition and any comments or reply comments. To comment on a petition, click on "Submit a Filing." In both cases, you'll need to enter the proceeding number in the "Proceeding" field--and here's where it can get tricky. For a rulemaking petition with an "RM" number, the "RM" has to be upper case and the hyphen is required. For example, you must type "RM-0000" for the system to recognize what you're looking for or want to comment on. For a docket number, however, the system only recognizes the numbers, not any letters that precede them. For example, if you wanted to view ET Docket 01-999, you'd just enter "01-999" to search for comment in that proceeding. The ECFS page includes considerable on-line help as well as a list of frequently asked questions.