New option allows filing of petitions for rulemaking through ECFS.

If you’re planning on filing a petition for rulemaking with the FCC but you’re out of paper, or maybe your printer is low on toner and the local Kinko’s is closed, we’ve got good news for you. The Commission has announced that petitions for rulemaking may now be filed electronically!

As we reported last December, the FCC has been tweaking its Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) to accommodate a wide range of electronic filings that previously could be filed only on paper. Thanks to those efforts, ECFS will now accept rulemaking petitions along with the other non-docketed filings we listed in our December post.

The drill for petitions for rulemaking is essentially the same as for other non-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 first drop-down menu, select the FCC “inbox” to which your filing is to go – for a rulemaking petition, that would be (unsurprisingly) “Section 1.401 Petition for Rulemaking”; from the “Filing Type” drop-down, pick “Petition for Rulemaking”;
  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.

You’ll know that you’ve successfully navigated the maze when you see a confirmation screen with a unique confirmation number. (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.)

Petitions filed electronically will be available to FCC staff (and the general public as well) within a day. The prompt accessibility of electronically filed petitions may mean faster staff assignment and Commission action, but you shouldn’t necessarily count on that.

Since everybody and his little brother will be able to see it, you should keep in mind that they’ll be able to see any confidential information that may be contained in the petition. That being the case, before you file, be sure to check out the rules governing the submission of information that you’d prefer not be made available to the public. (Section 0.459 of the FCC’s rules is a good place to start.)

To access an electronically filed petition, go to the ECFS search page and enter “Inbox-1.401” in the “Proceeding” box. (You can also narrow your search by completing any of the additional boxes.)

Electronic filing of petitions for rulemaking is optional, at least for now. That means that you may stil file them the old-fashioned way, if you prefer. (Reminder: The electronic filing of some other non-docketed items is mandatory. Falling into that category are Section 208 formal complaints, Section 224 pole attachment complaints, ILEC network change notifications, and Section 214 transfer of control and discontinuance applications. Other non-docketed filings may be filed electronically at the filer’s option: waiver requests under Part 15, miscellaneous waiver requests, waiver requests under Parts 32, 43, 64, 65 and 69 for which a fee is required, petitions for declaratory rulings, International High Frequency applications, and Section 325(c) applications.)