The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which it proposed to streamline procedural rules for several types of formal complaint proceedings, including those associated with advanced communications services (ACS). The proposed rules would consolidate rules from three types of complaint proceedings – ACS, pole attachments, and Section 208 – and are intended to increase the efficiency of resolving these types of complaints.

ACS complaints are currently governed by regulations in Part 14 of the Commission’s rules. These rules, which cover complaints alleging that ACS providers or equipment manufacturers have failed to make their services or products accessible under the ACS requirements, already closely resemble the formal complaint rules for Section 208. The FCC has, however, proposed a limited number of adjustments to the procedures for ACS complaints, including:

  • Extending the filing deadline for answering any formal complaint regarding ACS compliance to 30 days. (The current deadline for answering ACS complaints is 20 days.)
  • Extending the filing deadline for replies to the defendant’s answer to 10 days. (The current deadline for ACS replies is three days.)
  • Modifying the discovery rules to allow the complainant and defendant to file and serve written interrogatories with the complaint, answer, and reply without the need to request permission. (The current rule requires FCC staff to review the interrogatory requests, determine which should be responded to, and set a response schedule. The proposed rule would allow parties to object to an interrogatory and FCC staff would then rule on any such disputed interrogatories.)
  • Removing the requirement that the complaint, answer, and reply include the party’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
  • Modifying the rules regarding pre-filing settlement efforts to require that such settlement discussions occur at the executive level.
  • Codifying Commission staff’s current practice of providing staff-supervised mediation services to allow parties to negotiate a dispute resolution voluntarily and confidentially prior to or after the filing of a formal complaint.

The FCC notes in the NPRM that one of the proposed rule changes, regarding “Accelerated Docket” provisions, will not apply to ACS complaints because the FCC previously ruled that Accelerated Docket rules are not applicable to formal complaints regarding ACS.

The FCC also requested comment on whether it should implement a “shot clock” that would require the FCC to issue an order within a set time period.

Comments regarding this NPRM are due October 26, 2017, and reply comments are due on or before November 13, 2017.