FCC Ends Shutdown, Adjusts Deadlines, Gets Back to Business as Usual
After grinding to a halt along with most of the rest of the federal government, the FCC sprang promptly back to life October 17, after Congress resolved the funding crisis — at least for now. With the Commission’s Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, facility, main website and Amateur Radio call sign database (ULS) dark for the duration, no Amateur Radio applications were able to be filed, even on paper, and the FCC made no license or call sign grants.
“We have already taken immediate steps to remedy disruptions caused by the shutdown,” said FCC Chair Mignon Clyburn as the FCC reopened. “We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this extraordinary situation.”
Amateur Radio testing was able to continue during the shutdown, however, and exam session paperwork continued to flow into the ARRL VEC. Once the FCC was up and running again, it was not long before application processing resumed, and grants started showing up again, much to the delight of those who had been waiting for new licenses, upgrades, and vanity call sign grants.
“We had approximately 250 sessions and over 1500 forms in the queue,” ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said as the FCC reopened. By the end of the day, the VEC staff had dispatched its entire backlog to the FCC for processing. Somma said, “day-to-day operations at the ARRL VEC office ran smoothly despite this unusual event.” Somma said most ARRL VEC exam sessions took place as scheduled, but a few sessions that were supposed to be held at government facilities such Army National Guard buildings, had to be cancelled or moved to different locations.
Readjusted Filing Deadlines
In a Public Notice released after the FCC reopened, the FCC said that the public had no access to electronic dockets and other online Commission resources during the suspension of operations, it was extending the filing deadline for regulatory and enforcement filings. For radio amateurs, the biggest impact may be for those with vanity call sign applications in the hopper. The FCC pointed out that the ULS was unavailable for Amateur Service licensees to file applications to modify their license grants to show a vanity call sign.
“Ordinarily, vanity call sign applications are processed on a day-by-day basis, with a random selection procedure used to determine the processing order for applications filed on the same day,” the FCC said. “In order to accommodate the orderly resumption of business, however, vanity call sign applications filed via ULS between October 17 and October 22 will all be processed as if they were filed on October 22, 2013. In addition, any vanity call sign applications that were filed by mail between October 1 and October 22 also will be treated as if they were filed on October 22, 2013.”
The FCC said. “All ULS applications and notifications filed in accordance with the Commission’s rules…that were originally due on October 1, 2013, through and including November 4, 2013, are now due on November 4, 2013.” With the ULS again available, the FCC was encouraging applicants and licensees to file any applications and notifications “as soon as practicable.”
Regarding deadlines, the FCC said, “Filings…that were due between October 1 and October 6 will be due on October 22, 2013,” the FCC said. “Filings…that were due between October 7 and October 16 will be due 16 days after the original filing date, an extension equivalent to the period of the Commission’s closure.”
This means, for example, that if a filing was due October 7, it now will be due October 23 — an extension of 16 day. “To the extent the revised due dates for filings under this Public Notice fall on a weekend or other Commission holiday,” the FCC continued, “they will be due on the next business day. [A]ny regulatory and enforcement filings that would otherwise be required to be filed between October 17 and November 4…will be due for filing on November 4, 2013 (the first business day following a 16-day period after the Commission’s October 17 reopening).
The FCC said it cannot waive statutory filing deadlines, such as those associated with petitions for reconsideration. “Nonetheless, because of the disruption and uncertainty associated with the suspension of Commission activities and the relaunch of Commission filing systems, we will not consider the Commission open for filing of documents with statutory deadlines until Tuesday, October 22, 2013,” the FCC said. “To the extent the due dates for filings to which reply or responsive pleadings are allowed are extended by this Public Notice, the due dates for the reply or responsive pleadings are extended by the same number of days.”