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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 is intended to identify generally what tasks the agency needs to accomplish in order to complete its review in cases involving complex or difficult issues, the normal order in which these tasks can be most efficiently performed, 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 public notice. Routine applications should be decided well within the 180-day mark. More complex applications may take longer. 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. Delay in action beyond the 180-day goal in a particular case is not indicative of how the Commission ultimately will resolve an application.

The timeline is intended to promote transparency and predictability in the Commission’s process. In addition to its descriptive function, the timeline represents an undertaking by the agency to accomplish these tasks within the stated time frames, and to keep the parties and the public informed of its progress. For transactions highlighted on the Transaction Team’s web page, the timeline provides the public with ready access to information about the status of a pending transaction. For transactions not highlighted on the Transaction team’s web page, the timeline still applies and the Commission will endeavor to complete action on pending applications accordingly.

The timeline also indicates the requirements and opportunities for participation by the interested parties -- applicants, supporters, opponents, and members of the public -- in order for the review process to move forward efficiently. Such a timeline helps to identify what can be done by parties other than the agency to contribute to a speedy and efficient consideration and resolution, and when actions by such other parties outside the agency’s control are responsible for delay.

Any such general timeline necessarily oversimplifies the process. Statutes and regulations require different procedures for different types of licenses or authorizations, and the circumstances of individual cases will differ (for example, the actions taken by other government agencies considering the antitrust, national security, or law enforcement issues relating to the transaction). The timeline should therefore be viewed as a flexible tool, not an effort to force the review of all diverse transactions into one inflexible mold. In particular circumstances, the order of performing the required tasks or the time to complete a task may vary. Generally, these stages and times are intended to indicate reasonable goals for the most complex cases. Cases that do not present complex or difficult issues require fewer stages and less time to resolve.

We note that the timeline for informational purposes only. Since we implemented our timeline, we have received on occasion requests by outside parties to “stop the clock” for a particular transaction. We take this opportunity to remind the public that 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, any decision that stopping the clock is warranted is purely discretionary, and we will not entertain requests to that effect.

We also remind the public that, although the agency seeks to meet the 180-day benchmark, 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 getting the necessary accurate information to the agency in the proper form at the earliest time.

  • Applicants’ Tasks—pre-Public Notice
    • Identify complete list of licenses, authorizations involved
    • Contact relevant Bureaus
    • Identify appropriate application forms, appropriate filing process (e.g., electric, paper), and related applications/requests and consolidation, in consultation with relevant FCC staff
    • File necessary forms, applications, and special requests for relief
    • Send Hart-Scott-Rodino waiver letter to U.S. Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission (if required)

Day 0: Public Notice (PN)

  • 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 licenses and authorizations to be transferred
  • Consolidated FCC PN for transactions involving multiple licenses and authorizations
  • Contents of PN:
    • General nature of applications and related transaction (e.g., merger), and waivers and other rulings requested by parties
    • List of licenses/authorizations to be transferred/assigned/granted/discontinued, with associated file numbers
    • Outline of procedures (identify lead Bureau and contacts at all relevant Bureaus, whether proceeding will remain restricted or be permit-but-disclose, initial briefing schedule, procedures for obtaining access to confidential information, any special filing requirements)
  • PN starts 180 day clock. If separate PNs for the same transaction are issued by different Bureaus, then Day 0 will be the date on which the last related public notice is released.
  • A Protective Order may also be issued at or about this same time (a Protective Order will likely be issued if a Hart-Scott-Rodino waiver letter has been sent).

Days 1-30: Public Comment Period (filing of petitions to deny or comments)

  • Ordinarily 30 days, occasionally 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

  • Ordinarily 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 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.In certain cases, the Commission may be able to determine earlier what additional information it will need from the parties, and the Commission’s failure to issue an initial information request by Day 90 is without prejudice to sending an initial or subsequent request for information 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 calendar, 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, we endeavor to send the parties a letter explaining our reason for stopping the clock and posting that letter on the web page. In our experience, 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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