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How Many Questions in FCC NOIs/NPRM?
"Let me count the ways"

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Sonnet 43

In February we talked here about the FCC Process Reform Report and its many helpful proposals for FCC reform. We filed comments at FCC on some of these issues. The final report based on comments received is still pending.

In our comments we discussed, among other things, Recommendation 3.12: “Consider Listing Specific Questions with Rebuttable Presumptions at the End of an NPRM”. We said that FCC NOIs and NPRMs have an excessive number of poorly organized comments and showed how FCC’s UK and Canadian counterparts organized the questions in their counterparts to NOIs and MPRMs much better.

Segment of Industry Canada Consultation

For example, at left is a segment from a recent Industry Canada “consultation”. After each section the questions are set off in a box in bold type and are numbered. There are a total of 8 questions in this IC document.

In an ex parte filing this week we expanded on our original comments on the Process reform Report, focusing on the issue of questions in NOIs and NPRMs. Here is a key table from the filing:


While the 2 agenda items analyzed were issued under different FCC leadership, they were each high visibility and high priority items when released. The excessive number of questions is not the only issue. In both documents questions are in all sorts of places and are badly organized. Based on my experience a decade ago in the “sausage factory”, I suspect that questions grow during the drafting process as various staffers and 8th Floor offices look at drafts. The easiest way to get someone to sign off is to add another question to show you are concerned and listening. Thus questions grow out of control with no central accountability for the end product.

This tangled question structure then impacts everyone involved:

  • Commenters have to spend time sorting the questions and figuring which to respond to. After all can you really respond to 200+ questions in the allotted time. Perhaps some commenters group the questions one way and others group them a different way.
  • In the reply comment phase, the problem gets worse as one has to sort through how various other parties dealt with the mass of tangled questions.
  • Finally the poor FCC staff that does comment summaries has to find a way to organize this mess. This takes extra time and slows down process. Indeed even though Docket 09-157 was a high priority processing when adopted, it has had no further action in nearly 5 years!

Readers who are concerned with the mess resulting from tangled webs of questions in FCC NOIs/NPRMs might wish to support this issue in statements in the Process Reform proceeding.

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness

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