New “Submit a Non-Docketed Filing” module allows some filers to eschew paper.

In a move presumably designed to make everybody’s lives easier, the Commission has expanded its Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) to accept a wide range of filings that previously could be filed only on paper. That’s good news. But before you take advantage of this new opportunity, be sure you’re familiar with the fine print.

Historically, ECFS has been available only for materials being submitted in docketed proceedings. Since many FCC activities don’t involve such proceedings, paper filings have continued to be the order of the day in many areas. (Two years ago the Media Bureau opened up its CDBS system for pleadings directed at particular applications, but that still left many filings plodding the paper trail.)

Now the Commission has included a new “module” (dubbed, not surprisingly, the “Submit a Non-Docketed Filing” module) in ECFS to accept, electronically, certain non-docketed submissions.

The new module is currently up and running and ready to receive your non-docketed filings, so feel free to use it for the any of the types of filings listed below starting now. Use of the module is voluntary for the time being – so if you want to burn through those last couple of toner cartridges and boxes of copy paper, feel free to stick with hard-copy filings – but note that electronic filing for items so identified in our list below will be mandatory in the near future. (The dates when voluntary turns to mandatory have been set for some types, but remain To Be Determined for others, as indicated below.)

Filings accepted by “Submit a Non-Docketed Filing” module in ECFS:

  • Formal complaints submitted pursuant to Section 208 of the Communications Act (mandatory as of 1/12/15)
  • Pole attachment complaints submitted pursuant to Section 224 (mandatory as of 1/12/15)
  • Network change notifications by incumbent local exchange carriers (mandatory – date TBD)
  • Domestic Section 214 transfer-of-control applications (mandatory – date TBD)
  • Domestic Section 214 discontinuance applications (mandatory – date TBD)
  • Part 15 waiver requests
  • Miscellaneous waiver requests
  • Parts 32, 43, 64, 65 and 69 waiver requests for which a fee is required
  • Petitions for declaratory rulings
  • International High Frequency applications
  • Section 325(c) applications (for delivery of service to foreign stations)

(Blogmeister’s Note: Our calculation of the 1/12/15 date for mandatory filing is based on this notice in the Federal Register.)

The process for filing is essentially the same as for docketed filings:

  1. Go to the ECFS home page;
  2. Click on the “Submit a Non-Docketed Filing” link in the list of “ECFS Main Links” (top left corner of the screen);
  3. From the drop-down menu select the type of filing you’re submitting;
  4. Complete the rest of the form;
  5. Upload the document you want to file;
  6. Click the “Continue” button;
  7. Follow the remaining prompts.

The system will give you a confirmation screen with a unique confirmation number once the filing has been received into the system. (Practice tip: It’s always a good idea to make and keep a screen grab copy of the confirmation screen, just in case any question ever arises.)

Easy-peezy, right? Sure, but don’t forget the fine print cautions, which include:

When a filing is supposed to be accompanied by a fee (e.g., transfer-of-control applications, certain waiver requests), you’ve got to pay the fee through the Commission’s fee filer system.

Petitions for declaratory ruling seeking a Section 310(b) finding relative to foreign ownership of a wireless licensee should continue to be filed using the Commission’s International Bureau Filing System.

Parties seeking confidential treatment for any of these filings should follow the Commission’s rules requiring that the request be submitted through the Secretary’s office with a redacted version submitted electronically. (Remember, anything filed electronically will be available for all the world to see. You have been warned.)

In some situations, the filing of a non-docketed item may cause the Commission to open a new docket. When that happens, any further filings, included responses, will have to be filed through the conventional ECFS interface, referencing the now-docketed proceeding.

As the notice at the top of the “Submit a Non-Docketed Filing” page warns,

Do not use this form to submit informal complaints about service providers. Do not use this form to submit comments in a proceeding for which a docket number (e.g. 14-1) or rulemaking number (e.g. RM-10001) has been assigned, comments on existing licensing proceedings, comments in existing formal complaint proceedings, or anything for which another existing electronic-filing system is available.

Eventually this will all become second nature to all of us, but it will be good to keep these various considerations in mind as we get used to the opportunity to file non-docketed items electronically. Anyone contemplating such a filing should be sure to take a close look at the Commission’s public notice announcing the new system.