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Federal Communications Commission
1919 - M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
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Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

Report No. GN 97-6 GENERAL ACTION April 3, 1997


The Commission today proposed to allow electronic comments to be filed in FCC rulemaking proceedings, using the World Wide Web and electronic mail. The Commission made this proposal to make it easier for the public to file comments and to access comments filed by others. Under this proposal, parties would still have the option of filing comments on paper.

In making this proposal, the Commission noted that an estimated 40 million people in the United States now have access to the Internet. Allowing parties to use the Internet and other forms of electronic transmission to file comments in FCC proceedings would make it simpler for people to submit comments to the Commission and allow comments to be made available for review on-line in an efficient manner.

Several provisions of the Commission's current rules require comments, replies and other documents to be filed on paper. The Commission tentatively concluded that these rules should be modified so that electronically filed comments will receive the same treatment and consideration as comments filed on paper. The Commission seeks comment on this conclusion and on any other rule changes needed to facilitate electronic filing. The Commission also seeks comment on whether these electronic filing procedures should apply to comments or pleadings concerning preliminary steps such as petitions for rulemaking, notice of inquiry proceedings, petitions for reconsideration and responsive comments or pleadings filed in notice and comment rulemakings other than broadcast allotment proceedings.

The Commission said it proposed to limit electronically filed documents to rulemaking proceedings, other than broadcast allotments, at this time. Before expanding the scope of the electronic filing option, the agency will need more experience with the new system.

Current rules require the filing of multiple copies of formal comments to the Secretary, with separate copies submitted to the FCC copy contractor. The Commission tentatively concluded that if comments are filed electronically, parties need only to submit one electronic copy, which could automatically be distributed to the appropriate Bureaus and Offices, as well as the copy contractor, in electronic form.

The Commission tentatively concluded that the primary mechanism for electronic filing of formal comments should be a World Wide Web page form, through which parties may upload their comments directly into a database or input brief comments directly. The Web page would allow parties to use the same system to search for and download comments filed in a proceeding. The Commission encouraged comments on the feasibility and desirability of other media, such as CD-ROMs and dial-up bulletin board systems, for submitting electronic filings.

The Commission also sought comment on a number of procedural issues including how the filing date and time should be established; how page limits can be specified; which file formats should be accepted; and whether the Commission needs any additional requirements to ensure security and authenticity of submissions. The Commission tentatively concluded that where service of documents is required on specific parties, such service must be made with paper documents unless the party to be served agrees to accept electronic service of the materials.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today addresses only the Commission rule changes necessary to implement electronic filing. The Commission intends to use Public Notices and other announcements to inform the public of its technology decisions and specific procedures to use in order to file comments electronically. The Commission also intends to continue to hold open forums (which will also be carried on the Internet) to discuss this process.

Action by the Commission April 3, 1997, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 97-113). Chairman Hundt, Commissioners Quello, Ness and Chong.


News Media contacts: Patricia A. Chew and Maureen Peratino at (202) 418-0500. Office of Plans and Policy contact: Kevin Werbach (202) 418-1597; Office of General Counsel contact: Laurence Schecker (202) 418-1717.