FCC Will Face Massive Backlog on Reopening

(Pent-up filings from the period of the shutdown will jam the agency)

With the FCC shutdown now halfway through its second week, we have been thinking about the start-up procedure when the shutdown finally ends. We don’t like how that looks.

Everything that would have come due during the shutdown instead will all be due on the same day: not the day the FCC reopens, but the day after that. Filings due on the day of reopening are likewise put off till that same next day.

Set aside the problem of the FCC websites being down, which makes it is impossible to do the needed research for some of those filings. We will have to squeeze that all of that into the one day between the reopening and the due date.

Think instead about the problem of instant, massive backlog when the FCC reopens.

Suppose the FCC is closed for ten business days and opens next Wednesday. (Monday is a U.S. federal holiday for those that are keeping count).  Eleven days’ worth of filings will all come due on Thursday. Filings that have no due date new applications, waiver requests, you name it – will have piled up in people’s offices during the shutdown, and likewise all come pouring in.

But now suppose you file a routine request the next day, Friday. Whatever the processing time usually is, you can count on it being much longer. Think about it: you are stuck in line behind eleven days’ worth of other people’s requests on which the FCC has not yet started work. If the system worked with perfect efficiency, you might expect your request to take eleven days longer than usual. In practice, we’re betting the added time will be considerably greater. That is: however long the shutdown, we can count at least that much additional delay, and probably much more, once the FCC is back in business.

The longer this goes on, the worse the chaos will be when it ends.

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
rych withers - October 10, 2013 12:17 PM

So what happens to all the licensees in California if the shutdown lasts for a few months? Will we have to sign off the air when our license expires?

Anne Goodwin Crump - October 10, 2013 1:37 PM

No, there is a provision of law that if a renewal application was filed before the license expired, the license automatically continues in effect until the Commission acts on the renewal application. Thus, only those stations with impending expiration dates that did not file a renewal before October 1 will need to worry.

FHH Law - October 11, 2013 1:30 PM

FHH Law --

At the risk of sounding even more dire alarms, let's not forget that the LPFM window is set to open on October 15, and the filing window for biennial commercial broadcasting Ownership Reports (FCC Form 323) had been set to open as of October 1 (with a currently scheduled closing date of December 1). Both of those filing opportunities are likely to attract tens of thousands of new submissions through CDBS in the days and weeks immediately following the resumption of government activities. While the processing of both LPFM applications and Form 323s is not likely to interfere with most routine licensing activities, it's not clear how well CDBS -- the intake portal for the overwhelming number of broadcast applications and reports -- will handle the relatively sudden influx of filings.

Tim Sawyer - October 11, 2013 3:04 PM

We all know the intake capacity of the cdbs system is less than satisfactory on good days. I have a dozen or so routine applications ready to upload as of today. Three of which must be filed to meet filing deadlines. Being but a small cog in the wheel on the bus that goes round and round...well it's going to be interesting. It would have been nice to have been able to at least upload the material during the shutdown.

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