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FCC Acknowledges ECFS Delays But Won’t Extend Most Deadlines

Commission will not grant broad extension of comment deadlines in pending proceedings

The Federal Communications Commission was beset by significant delays in the posting of comments to its Electronic Comment Filing System in April and May, but it will not grant a broad extension of comment deadlines.

The commission said it saw a surge in the volume of comments in some proceedings, like the open Internet ruling and video navigation proceedings. As a result, the ECFS system, which houses official records in its docketed proceedings and rulemakings, was delayed in publicly posting comments, the commission said. The one-two punch of a high volume of comments and constraints within the commission’s legacy infrastructure led to the delays in posting comments, it said.

But in a public notice last week (PDF) it said the logjam is not affecting the ability of a party to file comments. It appears that comments will continue to show up in ECFS promptly enough to enable preparation of reply comments by the scheduled due dates.

[Read about FCC efforts to modernize its IT infrastructure.]

Earlier last month, several groups told the FCC more time should be given to read and respond to comments that were affected by the delay. Groups as varied as the organization Protect Internet Freedom, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and the Tea Party Nation pressed the commission to grant comment extensions on existing docket items due to backlogs of comments across all dockets.

The commission saw the situation differently. “We do not find it necessary to grant a broad extension of comment deadlines in pending rulemaking proceedings,” it wrote last week, since the commission will consider ex parte comments, as well as supplemental reply comments that address late-posted pleadings.

In short, if you’re concerned about the delay in comments, file a comment. Concerned parties may “employ the usual procedure for filing supplemental comments,” according to the public notice, officially submitted by seven of the main bureaus and the Offices of the Managing Director and Engineering and Technology.

Upcoming upgrades to the ECFS system should eliminate future delays, the commission said.

The commission did recently extend the deadline for comments about changes to the nation’s EAS system, but took pains at the top to say the circumstances in that case were unusual.