Statutory comment periods fall by the wayside in the headlong rush to get the auction up and running.
Just yesterday we reported that the public notice setting out the Incentive Auction procedures had made it into the Federal Register. Readers will recall our observation that, unlike the FCC-issued version of the notice, the Federal Register version indicated that the hilariously-named Paperwork Reduction Act might come into play somehow. Exactly how was not explained, but we guessed that it might have something to do with Form 177, the form that broadcasters will be required to file in order to participate in the reverse auction.
And check it out: the very next day the FCC has published another Federal Register notice requesting comments on (wait for it) FCC Form 177! Who knew?
The notice itself doesn’t include a copy of the proposed form, but it provides directions for tracking a copy down on the website of the Office of Management and Budget. The Federal Register notice does make it clear, however, that the Commission is looking to short-circuit the usual PRA review process by months. According to the PRA, that process entails a 60-day comment period (with comments to be filed with the FCC), followed by a second, 30-day comment period (with comments to be filed with OMB). What with at least cursory FCC and OMB review and analysis of any incoming comments – after all, it’s important to sustain the illusion that the statutorily-mandated opportunities for public input may in fact have some meaningful effect – the PRA process often takes a total of four or more months.
Not this time.
The FCC has requested “emergency” consideration by OMB. And by “emergency”, it means that it wants to totally bypass the initial 60-day comment period and whack down the 30-day period to 14 days. But wait, there’s more! The Commission also requests that OMB approve the form “no later than 19 days after the [draft form] is received at OMB”, i.e., a mere five days after the close of the abbreviated comment period. That’s the governmental equivalent of Same Day Service!
The Federal Register notice doesn’t explain what the big rush is, but it’s not that hard to figure out. Broadcasters intending to participate in the reverse auction will have to file their Form 177s no later than December 18, which is (uh, let’s see, 30 days hath November, plus 18, plus 1) just under 50 days from now. But that’s longer than the initial 60-day PRA-mandated comment period … without tacking on the other 30-day period. No wonder the Commission is asking for expedited treatment.
It’s probably a good bet that OMB will accede to the FCC’s wishes. But that doesn’t mean that interested parties should pass on the chance to check out the draft form and offer up their thoughts on it. Anyone interested in doing so has until November 13, 2015 to get their comments in to OMB.
[Blogmeister’s Note: FWIW, we here in the CommLawBlog bunker followed the FCC’s directions for finding the draft form on the OMB site, but the form wasn’t there. Of course, that was at 7:00 a.m. on October 30, and it’s not unusual for these things not to be immediately available at the crack of dawn (although, in view of the abbreviated review-and-comment period contemplated by the FCC, the loss of even part of a day puts more pressure on would-be commenters). We’ll check back with the OMB site periodically and update this post once we find the draft form there.]
[Blogmeister Update: As promised, we have continued to check back with the OMB site. As of 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 31 (in its effort to bring readers up-to-the-minute information all the time, CommLawBlog does not recognize traditional weekends), we have still been unable to find reference to the draft Form 177 on the OMB website.]