The Wireless Bureau, in a series of orders and letters addressing late-filed renewal applications, has cracked down on what used to be an almost-routine grant of such applications. Most of the licenses at issue were microwave industrial/business pool licenses held by utility companies that inadvertently failed to file their renewal applications prior to the expiration of the licenses.

In denying the applicants’ waiver requests, the Wireless Bureau set forth its current policy regarding late-filed applications for Wireless Radio Services:

“[R]enewal applications that are filed up to thirty days after the expiration date of the license will be granted nunc pro tunc if the application is otherwise sufficient under the Commission’s Rules, but the licensee may be subject to an enforcement action for untimely filing and unauthorized operation during the time between the expiration of the license and the untimely renewal filing. Applicants who file renewal applications more than thirty days after the license expiration date may also request renewal of the license nunc pro tunc, but such requests will not be routinely granted, will be subject to stricter review, and also may be accompanied by enforcement action, including more significant fines or forfeitures….”

In the recent cases, despite claims by the licensees that the licenses at issue were critical to their safe and efficient operations, the Bureau denied the waiver requests, noting that “an inadvertent failure to renew a license in a timely manner is not so unique and unusual in itself as to warrant a waiver of the Commission’s Rules.” Instead, the Bureau stated that the applicants could request special temporary authority (“STA”) for their wireless operations and must file a new, properly coordinated application to obtain a regular authorization.

These decisions emphasize the importance of internal processes for docketing and keeping track of license expiration dates and renewal deadlines, even for companies whose wireless licenses are ancillary to their main operations.