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Informal Timeline for Consideration of Applications for Transfers or Assignments
of Licenses or Authorizations Relating to Complex Mergers

The following timeline generally identifies the tasks the FCC performs in order to complete its review of assignment or transfer of control applications involving complex or difficult issues, and the time normally needed to complete them.

The timeline represents the Commission’s goal of completing action on assignment and transfer of control applications (i.e., granting, designating for hearing, or denying) within 180 days of the public notice accepting the applications. Routine applications are decided well within the 180-day mark. It is the Commission’s policy to decide all applications, regardless of whether they are highlighted on the web page, as expeditiously as possible consistent with the Commission’s regulatory responsibilities. Although the Commission will endeavor to meet its 180-day goal in all cases, several factors could cause the Commission’s review of a particular application to exceed 180 days. The timeline is intended to promote transparency and predictability in the Commission’s process. For transactions highlighted on the Commission’s web page, the timeline provides the public with ready access to information about the status of a pending transaction.

The Commission occasionally receives requests by outside parties to “stop the clock” for a particular transaction. The timeline carries with it no procedural or substantive rights or obligations, but merely represents an informal benchmark by which to evaluate the agency’s progress on a particular transaction. Accordingly, stopping the clock is a decision purely within the Commission’s discretion.

Further, although the Commission seeks to meet the 180-day benchmark in all cases, its statutory obligation to determine that an assignment or transfer serves the public interest takes precedence over the informal timeline. The Commission’s failure to release an order within the 180-day benchmark is not indicative of how it will resolve the issues raised in this proceeding.

We believe that the timeline has been a useful tool for both the agency and the public since it was first proposed in March 2000. We appreciate the comments and suggested changes we have received and continue to invite suggestions on additional improvements we can make to improve further the transparency and predictability of the Commission’s assignment and transfer of control processes.

All dates are approximate

Please note that all dates in the timeline are approximate and are subject to change. For example, if a due date falls on a weekend or holiday, the due date will be moved to the next business day and subsequent due dates will be moved accordingly.

Application: Applicants can benefit most from the agency’s effort to streamline its process for reviewing applications by providing the Commission with the necessary accurate information in the proper form at the earliest time.

  • Applicants’ Tasks—pre-Public Notice
    • Identify complete list of licenses and authorizations involved
    • Contact relevant Bureaus
    • Identify appropriate application forms, appropriate filing process, and related applications/requests, in consultation with relevant FCC staff
    • File necessary forms, applications, and special requests for relief

Day 0: Public Notice: Accepting the Applications for Filing

  • Minimum requirements for an application to be accepted for filing — facially complete application addressing the relevant issues and providing sufficient support for agency analysis and meaningful public comment, with a complete and accurate identification of all relevant licenses and authorizations
  • The Public Notice will generally contain:
    • General nature of applications and related transaction and waivers and other rulings requested by parties, if any
    • List of licenses/authorizations to be transferred/assigned/granted/discontinued, with associated file numbers
    • Due dates for pleadings and instructions how to file comments
    • Designation of proceeding as “permit-but-disclose,” allowing parties to meet with Commission staff and individual Commissioners on an ex parte basis
    • Contact information
  • The issuance of the Public Notice starts the 180-day clock.
  • A Protective Order limiting access to confidential information may also be issued at or about this same time.

Day 30: Comments and Petitions to Deny Due

  • Ordinarily, comments and Petitions to Deny are due 30 days after the Public Notice is issued; occasionally they are due after 45 days
  • Persons and entities that file petitions to deny become parties to the proceeding. They may participate fully in the proceeding, including seeking access to any confidential information that may be filed under a protective order, seeking reconsideration of decisions, and filing appeals of a final decision to the courts. Persons who file comments will have those comments duly considered by the FCC but may not have the right to participate in any formal hearing or file appeals to the courts.

Day 45: Oppositions to Petitions to Deny and Comments Due

  • Ordinarily, Oppositions are due 15 days after Petitions to Deny and Comments are due. Waiting until the reply stage to introduce arguments and evidence that were clearly available and relevant at the initial application stage is discouraged and may require additional time for public comment that will not be charged against the agency’s time clock.

Day 52: Replies to Oppositions

  • Ordinarily, Replies are due one week after Oppositions are due.

Day 90: Initial Information Request

  • The Commission will endeavor to send to the parties an initial request for information, if necessary, by Day 90 and in many cases will be able to do so earlier. If the Commission does not issue an initial information request by Day 90 it may still do so at any time after this date.

Days 52-180: Analysis of Record; Discussions with Parties

  • Analysis of Record; Discussions with Parties.

Day 180: FCC issues Order granting applications...

  • FCC issues Order granting applications, granting applications with conditions, or designating applications for hearing (denials without a hearing are possible only in very limited circumstances).
  • Considerations in “Stopping the Clock”

    • The Commission may “stop the clock,” that is, suspend its informal timeline, when the Commission’s ability to process and review the merits of an application is impeded by justifiable delay, the parties’ actions, or external events. Stopping the clock in such circumstances is intended to provide a more accurate picture of the time the Commission finds necessary to process a particular transaction. Stopping the clock does not itself delay a decision in a proceeding; it merely reflects that a decision could be delayed as a result of some external factor. When this occurs, the Commission ordinarily sends the parties a letter explaining the reason for stopping the clock and posting that letter on the web page. The following are common, but non-exhaustive, examples of reasons for stopping the clock:
      • The Commission extends the time for filing pleadings.
      • The Applicants do not respond to a request for information within a stated time period.
      • The Commission finds it appropriate to await resolution of issues pending before the relevant U.S. law enforcement or national security agencies.
      • The Commission receives significant new information about an application, or the parties file a substantial amendment to the application.
    • If the Commission stops the clock, it generally will restart it as soon as the event justifying its stoppage has been resolved such that the Commission’s review process is no longer impeded. On rare occasions the clock may be reset to a prior date.
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