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Rulemaking at the FCC

Each time Congress enacts a law affecting telecommunications, the FCC develops rules to implement the law. The Commission takes various steps to develop these rules. Typically, these steps offer consumers an opportunity to submit both comments and reply comments to the FCC.

Are There Special Terms I Need to Know?

Yes. Knowing your "ABCs," or specifically, one’s NOIs, NPRMs, and R&Os is key to understanding the Commission’s decision-making process. Exactly what do these letters mean? Below is a guide to understanding the "alphabets" of the FCC.
 
  • Notice of Inquiry (NOI): 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.
  • Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM): 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.
  • Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM): After reviewing your comments and the comments of others to the NPRM, the FCC may also choose to issue an FNPRM regarding specific issues raised in comments. The FNPRM provides an opportunity for you to comment further on a related or specific proposal.
  • Report and Order (R&O): After considering comments to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (or Further 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.

Changes After the R&O

Petition for Reconsideration: If you are not satisfied with the way an issue is resolved in the R&O, you can file a Petition for Reconsideration within 30 days from the date the R&O appears in the Federal Register.
 
Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O): In response to the Petition for Reconsideration, the FCC may issue a Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) or an Order on Reconsideration amending the new rules or stating that the rules will not be changed.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File Comments?

No. When the Commission proposes new rules, a period of time is established for the public to comment on the proposed rules. Anyone can file comments. You don’t need to be an attorney or to hire one. Each of the Commission’s documents containing proposed rules clearly details the specific dates, deadlines and locations for filing comments and reply comments.
 
Comments are just that. In your comments, you tell us what you think about the subject topic and why you support or oppose the Commission’s proposals.
 
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.

Does My Docketed/Rulemaking Filing Need to Include Specific Information?

Yes. Visit the Office of the Secretary website for instructions.
 
Docket Number
Rulemaking proceedings at the Commission 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.
 
Notations
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."
 
You can also file documents with the FCC for all docketed and rulemaking proceedings through our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), with the exception of Hearing Cases and Table of Allotments. However, you must first obtain the instructions for doing so by sending an e-mail to ecfs@fcc.gov with the following words noted in the body of the message: "get form <jsmith@domain.com>." 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.
 
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