Persons who do not wish to file a formal complaint, but who wish to inform the Bureau of evidence that a violation of local competition (or other common carrier market) requirements has occurred so that the Bureau may decide to initiate an investigation, if appropriate, may contact Trent Harkrader, Deputy Chief of the Investigations and Hearings Division, at 202-418-1420.
While you don't need to spend a lot of time or money putting information together in advance, when you contact the staff, it does help to provide as much factual information concerning the alleged violation as possible, and to be able to substantiate your claims. Documentary materials (copies of letters, e-mails, etc.), or testimonial evidence in the form of sworn affidavits, is particularly helpful. It is also useful if you can identify particular provisions of the statute or the rules that you believe have been violated. The more specific you can be, the faster the Enforcement Bureau can determine if enforcement action is warranted. Keep in mind, though, that this process does not require any ultimate decision by the FCC.
Formal Section 208 Complaints
Persons interested in filing a formal Section 208 complaint alleging violation of a local competition rule should take the following steps. Call Us First. If you are contemplating filing a formal complaint, we strongly encourage you to contact the staff in the Market Disputes Resolution Division before filing. You may contact Lisa Griffin, Deputy Division Chief, at 202-418-7330. There are many advantages to contacting the staff before filing a complaint. The staff has stepped up its efforts to mediate disputes between industry participants before a complaint is filed. In many cases, the staff can discuss the dispute together with the potential complainant and the potential defendant and help facilitate a private settlement acceptable to both even before the filing of a complaint. Mediation does not work in every case, but you might be surprised (or perhaps not) how often the stonewalling and unsupportable arguments disappear when Commission staff is in the room. Most importantly, the mediation approach often results in quick resolution of disputes in a way that better fits the business needs of the companies. And, indeed, the mediation process is a prerequisite before the staff will accept a case on the Accelerated Docket (see below for more information on the Accelerated Docket). Even if mediation does not resolve the dispute, talking to the staff first can help answer any questions you may have concerning procedures, emphasize certain requirements that must be satisfied, and help focus the key issues in any complaint that is filed.
Read the Rules. Before filing a formal complaint, carefully review the procedural rules governing section 208 complaints. These rules are important. The staff follows them carefully and enforces them. Failure to comply with the rules can result in dismissal of the complaint. You should feel free to contact the staff to discuss these procedures and ask any questions. The rules governing formal complaints (including the procedures governing the Accelerated Docket) are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 47 C.F.R. Sections 1.720-1.736 (1999). For additional information, you may want to look at the FCC's Report and Order that adopted these rules, which is published in the FCC Record at 12 FCC Rcd 22497 (1997). The specific rules governing the Accelerated Docket are published in the FCC Record at 13 FCC Rcd 17018 (1998). A filing fee is required for all formal complaints. See 47 C.F.R. section 1.1106.
Factual Support. If you do file a formal complaint, provide as much factual support for your case as possible. This can be in the form of sworn affidavits, documentary evidence, etc. Do not assume that you will be able to engage in lengthy discovery after you file your complaint in order to develop the facts.
Use Discretion. Not every dispute involving local competition (or other market-related issues) is appropriate for a formal complaint. Potential complainants should take a hard look at potential cases and bring us cases that really matter. Our resources are finite, and the industry needs to use discretion in filing complaints if you want us to be there when it really counts. For our part, in an effort to be able to tackle local competition complaints quickly when they are filed, we have made great strides in reducing the number of complaints pending before the agency. We have accomplished this through mediation, settlement, and written decisions. We continue to work on reducing the number of cases pending before the agency. This will free our staff to address new competitive disputes as they arise and should reduce significantly the amount of time it takes to get a complaint resolved.
Accelerated Docket. The Accelerated Docket is available for selected formal complaints. Because this procedure may lead to a “mini-trial” with testimony by witnesses subject to cross-examination, it is particularly well suited for cases involving difficult factual disputes. It is designed to lead to a written staff-level decision within 60 days from the filing of the complaint. Because the Accelerated Docket rules require staff-supervised pre-filing settlement discussions between the parties, many disputes are settled without the need to file a formal complaint. In fact, such settlements are a real success story of the Accelerated Docket procedure. Please contact the staff if you would like to have a potential complaint considered for acceptance onto the Accelerated Docket. It is important to understand that not all cases are suitable for this expedited procedure. The staff, in its discretion, decides which cases to assign to the Accelerated Docket. Although you may be disappointed if the staff declines to assign your particular case to the Accelerated Docket, you always are free to file a “traditional” formal complaint and have that complaint adjudicated by the FCC.