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Understanding FCC Processes

How to Tell Your NOIs from Your NPRMs

You have almost completed your journey and have learned about the tools the FCC provides to help you stay informed. You have learned the many ways of obtaining documents. Now let's get to the ABCs of those documents (what the letters describing them mean) what role they play in the Commission's decision-making process.

I. Overview of the FCC's Decision Marking Process (How Rules are Made)

    A. Notice of Inquiry (NOI)
    • An NOI is designed primarily for fact gathering, a way to seek information about a broad subject or generate ideas on a specific issue, such as "streamlining." This document will generally ask questions and provide few conclusions.
    • It describes where and when comments may be submitted, where and when you can review comments others have made and how to respond to those comments.
    • After reviewing comments from the public, the FCC will issue either a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or a Memorandum Opinion and Order concluding the NOI.
    B. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
    • An NPRM is issued to detail proposed changes to FCC rules and to seek public comment on either focused, or specific proposals and/or to ask questions on an issue or set of issues.
    • The NPRM describes where and when comments may be submitted, where and when you can review comments others have made and how to respond to those comments.
    • After reviewing your comments and comments of others to the NPRM, and in conjunction with or before issuing a Report & Order (R&O) the FCC may also choose to issue a "Further NPRM" regarding issues raised in comments to provide an opportunity for the public to comment further on a related alternative proposal.
    • After an NPRM or a FNPRM,a R&O will be issued adopting any rule changes.
    • Note: Both the NOI and the NPRM contain "docket numbers" which are printed on the document's front page.
    C. Report & Order (R&O)
    • After considering comments and reply comments to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC may issue a Report & Order.
    • The R&O amends the rules or makes a decision not to do so. Summaries of the R&O are published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register summary of the R&O will tell you when a rule change will be effective.
II. What could happen after an R&O (What changes can be made)

    A. Petition for Reconsideration
    • If people feel that certain issues were not really defined or resolved, a Petition for Reconsideration may be filed within 30-days from the date the R&O appears in the Federal Register. The Petition is acted upon by the Commission.
    • The FCC may issue a Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) or an Order of Reconsideration amending the rules or stating that the rules will not be changed.
III. The public's role (You don't need to be a lawyer)
  • Everybody can get involved in the comment period. You don't need to be an attorney or hire one. Each of the documents detail how and where comments can be filed.
  • Comments are just that. You tell us your feelings about the subject topic.
  • Reply comments also are what their name implies. You can review what others say, and then support or disagree with a point and file a reply comment. In all cases,the document--NOI, NPRM gives specific dates and deadlines and locations where the comments are to be sent.
  • We are often asked who sees the comments. Well, for one, the Commissioners and staff. Comments impact on the Commission's decisions. If you review a Commission's R&O, you'll see it analyzes and responds to comments that have been filed.
  • There are some simple rules to submitting comments and we have a Fact Sheet available here today for you that will assist you with the process.
  • The FCC may change or modify its initial decision or deny the Petition for Reconsideration. This is done by the issuance of a Memorandum Opinion and Order(MO&O)and no, it's not called a MOO.
IV. Other Ways The Commission Receives Information
    A. En banc
    • The en banc is a hearing held by the Commissioners to hear various presentations on specific topics by diverse parties -- usually in panel groups.
    • Recent examples include Children's Television and Digital Television. The Commissioners question the presenters and their comments and presentations can be used by the Commission when it makes rules or proposed rulemakings.
    • Specific witnesses are asked to present information at an en banc hearing, typically following issuance of a Public Notice announcing the hearing.
    B. Ex parte
    • The ex parte rules ensures that all participants in an agency proceeding are given fair opportunity to present information and evidence in support of their positions.
    • An ex parte presentation is any presentation made to decision-making personnel, and in restricted proceedings, any presentation to or from decision-making personnel which: (1) if written is not served on the parties to the proceeding; or (2) if oral, is made without advance notice to the parties to the proceeding and without opportunity for them to be present. There are very specific rules governing these meetings and the rules are available from the Commission.
    • The ex-parte rules apply to anyone who seeks to influence the outcome of a particular proceeding whether or not that person is a party to the proceeding.
    • There are restricted and non-restricted ex parte presentations.
    • Unless exempted under the Commission rules, ex parte presentations are prohibited in restricted proceedings. The prohibition stays in effect until the proceeding has been decided or a settlement or agreement has been approved by the Commission and the matter is no longer subject to a reconsideration by the Commission or review by any court.
    • No person shall make an ex parte presentation in a proceeding that could become restricted --even if it's not restricted at the time --if that person intends to file a mutually exclusive application which could cause the proceeding to become restricted or intends to file an opposition, complaint or object which would cause the proceeding to become restricted.
    • There is specific information on restricted proceedings in which ex parte presentations are prohibited.
    • In non-restricted proceedings, ex parte presentations are generally permissible, but subject to disclosure. A person who makes or submits a written ex parte presentation shall provide on the same day a presentation is made an original and one copy of the presentation to the Commission's Secretary for inclusion in the public record.
Accessible Formats

    The Commission will provide documents in accessible formats, upon request. Accessible formats available are: computer diskette, large print, audio cassette, and Braille. Additionally, all Commission items are posted on the FCC's Internet website. To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities, send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0531 (voice), 202-418-7365 (tty).

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