TR Daily FCC Plans to Suspend Most Operations Tomorrow
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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

FCC Plans to Suspend Most Operations Tomorrow

The FCC plans to suspend most of its operations tomorrow due to the partial shutdown of the federal government. The agency said today that filing deadlines would be extended and informal transaction shot clocks would be suspended during the shutdown.

The agency said in a news release Monday and public notice today that unless Congress ends the shutdown, which it is not expected to do in the next day, the Commission “will suspend most operations in the middle of the day” tomorrow.

“At that time, employees will have up to four hours to complete an orderly shutdown of operations,” the FCC said in the news release. “However, work required for the protection of life and property will continue, as will any work related to spectrum auctions, which is funded by auction proceeds. In addition, the Office of the Inspector General will continue operations until further notice.”

The ongoing 28 gigahertz band auction will continue during any FCC shutdown because it is not funded with appropriations approved by Congress, as will TV channel rebanding activities in the wake of the FCC’s incentive auction. The auction is scheduled to resume tomorrow following a holiday break.

On Dec. 22, the day the partial government shutdown began, the FCC had announced that due to “available funding,” it planned to stay open at least through close of business today.

In today’s public notice, the FCC detailed the impact of the shutdown on its operations.

“During a lapse in funding, the Network Outage Reporting System (NORS), the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), the Public Safety Support Center (PSSC), the Licensing Management System (LMS), the Consolidated Database System (CDBS), the Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), the Universal Licensing System (ULS), the Electronic Document Management System (EDOCS), the Auctions Public Reporting System (PRS), the Auction Application System, the Auction Bidding System, the Daily Digest, and the Commission Online Registration System (CORES) will remain available,” the FCC said. “All other Commission electronic filing and database systems will be unavailable to the public until normal agency operations resume.

“In addition, the Commission’s filing window and mail operations will be open only for the purpose of receiving filings related to the spectrum auction activities authorized by section 309(j) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 309(j), including the broadcast incentive auction, and filings necessary for the protection of life and property,” the public notice added. “Content on the Commission’s website will remain accessible to the public, but will not be updated during the suspension of operations except as to matters related to spectrum auction activities authorized by section 309(j) and matters necessary for the protection of life and property.”

“We are extending the normal filing deadlines under the Commission’s rules so that all Commission submissions that would be due during a suspension of operations, including submissions otherwise due on January 3, will be due on the second day of normal operations,” the FCC said. “Further, in order to avoid confusion due to the shutdown of operations in the middle of the business day, we clarify that January 3, 2019, will not be considered a day that the Commission is open for business for the purpose of calculating submission deadlines. This extension of filing deadlines does not apply to NORS and DIRS filings and filings related to spectrum auction activities authorized by section 309(j), including the broadcast incentive auction. If the Commission is unable to restore electronic filing systems on the day the government reopens, the Commission may issue another Public Notice further extending filing deadlines.

“This Public Notice affects only the due dates for filings with the Commission that are scheduled to occur during any shutdown, including on January 3, or on the day the agency reopens, as described in the preceding paragraph. We are not automatically extending the deadlines for any comment or filing periods that occur outside of this time period, but we will consider whether it is appropriate to do so once normal operations resume, and requests for extension of time will be considered consistent with the Commission’s normal practice,” according to the public notice. “This Public Notice also does not affect the effective date of Commission actions or other events, or dates for filings with entities other than the Commission, even if such filings are also made with the Commission.”

“To the extent the due dates for filings to which reply or responsive pleadings are allowed are extended by this Public Notice (other than those related to spectrum auction activities authorized by section 309(j), including the broadcast incentive auction), the due dates for reply or responsive pleadings shall be extended by the same number of days,” the FCC said.

“Any STAs expiring during the suspension of regular Commission operations are extended to the day after regular Commission operations resume except to the extent that such STA relates to the post-incentive auction transition or other activities authorized by section 309(j) as described herein,” the FCC said. “Emergency STA requests involving potential risks to life or property will be processed through the FCC Operations Center ((202) 418-1122) while the Commission’s electronic dockets and other online resources are unavailable.”

“The FCC’s Fee Filer System will not be available while operations are suspended, and therefore no regulatory fee or application fee payments can be made through Fee Filer during such a period,” the public notice advised. “No deadline for payments of any type is being extended by this Public Notice, however, except to the extent a payment can only be paid through Fee Filer, in which case the applicable due date is extended in the same manner as the due dates for other regulatory filings herein. Otherwise, we expect payments to be timely made through the use of US Bank.”

“The Commission’s informal 180-day time clock for review of transactions is suspended. The individual time clock for each pending transaction is stopped on the day of review that coincides with the last full business day before the lapse in funding, January 2, 2019. The informal time clocks will be restarted on the business day following the day of return to normal operations,” the FCC said.

House Democrats, who are taking control of the chamber, plan to schedule a vote tomorrow on legislation to fund through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year, most agencies whose funding has lapsed. A separate continuing resolution to be considered tomorrow would fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8. The partial shutdown occurred as a result of a disagreement on providing funding for President Trump’s border wall.

Under the bill funding a number of agencies through Sept. 30, the FCC would be able to spend $333.1 million, $11.1 million above the fiscal year 2018-enacted level and equal to Mr. Trump’s budget request. All of the FCC’s revenues come from regulatory fees. The FCC also would be authorized to retain $130.3 million in auction proceeds. The Federal Trade Commission would get $309.7 million, a $3.4 million hike above FY2018 and equal to the president’s budget request.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) would get $39.5 million for FY 2019, the same the amount it received for FY 2018. The Trump administration had requested $33.6 million for NTIA for FY 2019. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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