Posted on August 31st, 2015 by

In an unusual move, but one apparently aimed at a major overhaul of FCC computer, telephone and other information systems, the FCC has announced a 7-day temporary shutdown or reduced service period of its website, databases and filing systems. Yes, that scares us too, but the FCC claims it is necessary for a “significant IT upgrade.”

So first, if you have something to file with the FCC, you just might to try and pull that off before the start of the one-week blackout. We have a precise date and time for the start of the period – 6:00 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, September 2, 2015. The FCC anticipates (but notably did not guarantee) that all systems will again be available starting at 8:00 a.m. Eastern on September 6th. In fact, it uses words like “uncertainty” in projecting the return of systems to normal status.

Just what systems will be inaccessible? Well, for broadcasters, the important ones are the Consolidated Database System (CDBS) and License Management System (LMS), where most forms and reports are submitted, and the Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) system, where tower information is maintained. While not specifically mentioned, it appears that the TV Online Public File system will be inaccessible as well (one wonders at the loss of public accessibility and harm to the public interest!).

What if you have something to file by a certain deadline, or place in the online public inspection file, during this period? Not to worry, the FCC has you covered. All regulatory filing deadlines due on September 2, 3, 4 or 8 will automatically be extended to September 9, 2015. If you do have to make a filing on those dates, keep a copy of the “outage” notice handy to prove that your submission was timely. And don’t bother submitting a paper filing for something that has a mandatory electronic filing requirement – the FCC is not accepting those either.

We bet you’re wondering just how the FCC can waive filing deadlines that are statutorily mandated. We were too, but don’t worry. The FCC has cleverly dodged that bullet by deciding that it will not consider the FCC “open” for filing such documents during the down period, and that any such filings should therefore be made on September 8th when systems return. To be clear, let’s review – the FCC will be open for business, but just not “open” for statutory filings. Ok.

STAs expiring September 2-8, 2015 are automatically extended to September 9, 2015 (but good luck filing that extension request – you’ll have to wait).

The FCC’s website will remain available, but with reduced content and limited search capability. The FCC 24/7 Operations Center will be open. The FCC’s telephones will work, but you will not be able to leave voicemails. And while you can send emails to FCC staff members, most staff will not have access to email, so don’t expect a quick response.