This informal timeline identifies the stages of review a forbearance
petition typically will go through between the filing of the petition
with the Commission and the release of a Commission order granting
or denying the petition in whole or in part. The timeline
reflects the statutory clock of one year (plus 90 days if necessary)
that Congress specified for Commission action on forbearance petitions. The
Commission attempts to address routine forbearance petitions well
before the statutory deadline. More complex petitions may
require the entire statutory timeframe.
The timeline is intended to promote transparency and predictability
in the Commission’s process for addressing forbearance petitions. As
with any general timeline, it necessarily oversimplifies the process. Most
of the dates and time ranges in the timeline are approximate, and
the circumstances of individual petitions may require different
time frames for particular parts of the process.
In the Forbearance Procedures Order, the Commission
adopted a “complete as filed” rule, which is codified
at 47 C.F.R. § 1.54. That
rule sets forth requirements a forbearance petition must
meet in order to be considered on its merits. A
party planning to file a forbearance petition also may wish to
contact the Commission staff prior to filing.
Day 0: A Forbearance Petition Is Filed
In addition to specifying requirements for the contents of forbearance
petitions, the “complete as filed” rule requires a
forbearance petitioner to email a copy of its petition to email@example.com at
the time it is filed. The purpose of this requirement is
to alert key Commission staff of each forbearance petition as soon
as it is filed, helping to ensure expeditious consideration.
Days 1-15: Initial Review by Commission Staff
The Commission staff’s initial review of a forbearance
petition takes place during the days immediately following its
filing. The purpose of this review is to determine whether
the petition is complete, coherent, and sufficiently specific to
serve as a basis for public comment. A petition that is incomplete
or defective on its face, or otherwise does not comply with the "complete as filed" rule will be summarily denied.
Summary denial at the beginning of a forbearance proceeding gives
the petitioner an early opportunity to cure and refile, and respects
interested parties’ resources. A failure to summarily
deny a petition upon receipt is not a final determination that
the petition complies with the “complete as filed” rule.
Day 15: Public Notice and Protective Orders
If a forbearance petition appears to be complete and coherent
on its face, Commission staff will release a public notice inviting
public comment on the petition, and setting comment and reply comment
Commission staff also will issue protective orders in appropriate
cases. These orders provide protection against the unwarranted
disclosure of confidential information that parties have submitted
to the record in forbearance proceedings.
Days 45 and 60: Deadlines for Filing Comments and
Typically, the public notice will allow about 30 days for comments
and 15 days for replies, with longer pleading cycles for more complex
petitions. The public notice will provide information on
how to file comments and replies.
A party also may file a motion asking the Commission to summarily
deny a petition for forbearance. This motion is due not later
than the due date for comments. The petitioner may file an
opposition to a motion for summary denial not later than the due
date for replies. The Commission does not permit replies
to oppositions to motions for summary denial.
Day 74: Deadline for Withdrawing or Significantly
Narrowing a Forbearance Petition
The Commission’s rules permit a petitioner to withdraw
or narrow a forbearance petition at any time during the early stages
of a forbearance proceeding. Later in the proceeding, however,
the petitioner must receive Commission authorization prior to withdrawing
or substantially narrowing the petition. The deadline for
unilateral withdrawal or narrowing without Commission approval
is the reply comment deadline plus 10 business days.
Day 75 – Month 10: Intermediate Period
During this intermediate period, Commission staff will analyze
the record developed in response to the public notice and any motions
for summary denial. The Bureau will consider whether to grant
or deny routine or less complex forbearance petitions. For
instance, in some circumstances, the record will make clear that
a forbearance petition clearly meets, or clearly fails to meet,
the statutory forbearance criteria. In the Forbearance
Procedures Order, the Commission anticipated that such petitions
would be resolved within six months of their filing.
More complex petitions typically will require additional time
to resolve. This additional time will be spent analyzing
any data that the parties have filed and, where appropriate, actively
developing the record, among other tasks.
In appropriate circumstances, the staff will issue an order extending
the deadline for Commission action on a forbearance petition by
up to 90 days.
Month 11 – Statutory Deadline: Final Period
The final period will consist generally of months 11 and 12 in
normal cases, or months 14 and 15 if the Commission extends the
statutory deadline. In the Forbearance Procedures Order,
the Commission adopted several rules to govern this final period. These
rules help ensure that the Commissioners will be able to make the
necessary determinations and release an order prior to the statutory
Circulation (four weeks before deadline). The
first of these rules imposes a deadline for circulation of a draft
order to the FCC Commissioners. The Commission’s rules
permit subordinate officials, such as a Bureau Chief, to act on
some matters pursuant to delegated authority. When a forbearance
petition presents novel questions of fact, law or policy that the
staff cannot resolve under existing precedent and decisions, however,
the Commission’s Chairman circulates an order addressing
the petition to all the Commissioners for their consideration. In
the Forbearance Procedures Order, the Commission required
that this circulation occur no later than 28 days prior to the
statutory deadline, unless all Commissioners agree to a shorter
Quiet Period (two weeks before deadline). In
the Forbearance Procedures Order, the Commission established
a two-week quiet period before the statutory deadline (one week
before the voting deadline) during which ex parte contacts
are prohibited. This rule creates a period of Commission
deliberation free from outside lobbying as the voting and statutory
Voting Deadline (one week before statutory deadline). In
the Forbearance Procedures Order, the Commission also
required that the Commissioners vote on any circulated order resolving
a forbearance petition no later than seven days prior to the statutory
deadline for acting on the petition.