This overview of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rulemaking Process provides a step-by-step explanation of how the Commission determines telecommunications rules and policies. Input from the public as well as regulated industry is a crucial part of the FCC rulemaking process. Understanding this process will help you take advantage of the opportunity to comment and express your views on FCC proceedings. If you would like to be part of the FCC rulemaking process, you may want to learn how to file comments with the FCC. Please note that the following information about the FCC rulemaking process is generally applicable but particular proceedings may differ. When submitting comments in response to a FCC notice or other document, always refer to the document for specific instruction.
Suggested changes to FCC rules and regulations originate from sources both within and outside the Commission. When submitted from outside the Commission, they should be in the form of Petitions for Rulemaking. The Commission regularly issues a news release listing the Filings accepted by the FCC. The public has 30 days to submit comments, or as directed in the notice. This is an opportunity to state reasons why a Petition for Rulemaking should be granted or denied.
This Filings News Release also lists other documents that companies and individuals send to the FCC. In addition to petitions for rulemaking, the News Release may contain comments, reply comments, clarifications, motions, proposals, and waiver requests.
After reviewing the comments received in response to a Petition for Rulemaking, the FCC will typically issue either an Order disposing of the petition, a Notice of Inquiry (NOI), or a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
A Notice of Inquiry is designed primarily for fact gathering and seeks comment from the public and industry in order to obtain more information. The document describes where and when comments may be submitted. Interested parties may also review what comments were received and, in most cases, submit comments in reply to other parties' submissions. After reviewing the comments submitted in response to a Notice of Inquiry, the FCC may release an Order explaining why the FCC is not taking further action, or it may issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is issued to detail proposed changes to FCC rules or to seek public comment on more focused proposals. The document describes where and when comments may be submitted. As is the case with most Notices of Inquiry, the public may review the comments received and submit comments in reply to other parties' submissions.
Notices of Inquiry and Notices of Proposed Rulemaking both contain Docket Numbers, which are printed in the document header. Identification of this number will assist your research.
The Office of Public Affairs produces a weekly News Release, Open Proceedings, that lists current FCC Notices of Proposed Rulemaking and Notices of Inquiry that are open for public comment and includes pertinent Public Notices announcing comment subjects and dates.
After reviewing the comments received in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and in conjunction with or in lieu of a Report and Order explaining the FCC's actions on the proposed rule changes, the FCC may issue a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding issues raised in comments or to provide an opportunity for the public to comment further on a related alternative proposal. The issuance of all subsequent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will again establish a period for filing comments and reply comments to address the unresolved issues.
After considering comments and reply comments, the FCC may issue a Report and Order amending the rules or make a decision not to do so. The FCC may issue additional Report and Orders in the Docket if there is an outstanding issue to be resolved at a later date, or if there are additional rulemaking proposals in the Docket.
After the FCC issues a Report and Order, interested parties generally have 30 days to file a Petition for Reconsideration to request that the FCC reconsider its decision.
A Memorandum Opinion and Order is issued by the Commission to deny a petition for rulemaking, modify a decision, grant or deny a petition for reconsideration, or grant or deny an application for review of a decision. A second or third Memorandum Opinion and Order may be issued (2nd MO&O, 3rd MO&O). Other appropriate titles may also be used, e.g., Order on Reconsideration or Order on Review.
All official documents released by the FCC since March 1996 are posted on the Commission's Web Site. To find a particular document, you can use the FCC Electronic Document Management System (EDOCS) to search the EDOCS database for documents posted on the Internet.
The Electronic Comment Filing System allows you to view other comments that have been filed in FCC Docket or Rulemaking proceedings.
Copies of FCC documents are also available for a fee from the FCC's duplicating contractor, International Transcription Service, Inc. (202) 857-3805, or through other distribution services. Parties interested in using the private distribution services should contact them directly concerning their rates and services.
You may also view documents and comments at the FCC Reference Room located at 445 12th Street, Room CY-A257, in Washington, DC from 9:00AM to 4:30PM ET, Monday through Friday. The phone number for the FCC Reference Room is (202) 418-0270.
For further assistance in understanding the FCC Rulemaking Process, you may contact the Office of the Secretary at (202) 418-0300, TTY (202) 418-2960.