(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.