Unofficial Fee Filing Guides said to trump Federal Register notice

True to our word, we have doggedly pursued the mystery of the effective date of the new application fees. Here’s what we found out.

Back in September, when the Commission adopted the new fees, it specified that “the amendment to the Schedule of Application Fees made herein shall become effective 90 days after notification to Congress.” The FCC then promptly notified Congress and, according to a representative of the Office of Managing Director (OMD), the 90-day waiting period ended on December 30, 2008. Now the FCC’s own language (i.e., “the Schedule . . . shall become effective 90 days” blah blah blah) certainly seems to be self-executing – that is, one might have thought that, once those 90 days elapsed, bingo, the new fees would automatically go into effect.

But no.

Apparently the Commission felt that more had to be done, but what with the change of administration, the year-end holidays, and other similarly weighty regulatory concerns, it didn’t get around to sending the notice to the Federal Register for publication until late in January. At that point, we are told, the notice reflected the December 30, 2008 effective date. That makes sense.

But according to our friend at OMD, somebody at the Federal Register noticed that the 12/30/08 effective date pre-dated the planned date (January 29, 2009) of the notice’s publication in the Register, which apparently is a no-no. So the date got changed at that point to January 29 (despite the FCC’s seemingly self-executing language in its original order).

But OMD now tells us that the Commission really intended the effective date to be February 18, and that the Commission’s just-released Fee Filing Guides should be deemed to be the controlling authority – even though the Guides are “unofficial”, at least according to the verbiage on their covers.

So the moral of this particular story appears to be: the adjusted fee schedule is effective as of February 18, 2009. We’ll let you know if that changes.