FCC Wants Public Feedback on Plans to Fully Digitize Its Largest Licensing System

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The agency filed approximately 5,000 applications manually last year.

The public has a little over a week left to weigh in on the Federal Communications Commission’s latest digitization efforts to fully transition to electronic filing, licenses, authorizations and correspondence.

The agency unveiled plans late last month to move its largest licensing system—the Universal Licensing System—from paper to electronic format and enhance electronic filing and correspondence across other related systems. ULS manages applications for all wireless radio licenses. The public comment period is set to close Oct. 30. 

“While the vast majority of ULS applications today are submitted electronically, some are still manually filed, largely from exempted filers,” agency officials said in the original notice for proposed rulemaking. 

Though most ULS applications are already required to be filed electronically, FCC aims to overturn several exceptions to the rule, including those that currently allow Private Land Mobile Radio and Amateur Radio Service documents to be filed manually. ARS is specifically open to individuals who are “interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest,” and PLMR are used by both public and private entities for a wide range of person-to-person voice communication needs. 

The agency notes that, last year, of its total of about 425,000 applications received, 5,000 were manually filed. Of those, approximately one-third were from PLMR filers, and another third were from ARS filings.

“Given the drastic changes that have occurred with regard to the ubiquity of the internet and increased personal computer access, we find it unlikely that electronic filing remains infeasible or cost-prohibitive for the previously exempted types of filers, or that they lack resources to file electronically,” FCC officials wrote.

The new rule aims to eliminate certain exemptions to mandatory electronic filing, including ASR and PLMR. In the document, the agency questions if it is correct to oust the current exemptions, or if it should leave some in place to account for small entities or individuals with disabilities. The FCC also asks whether six months is sufficient lead-time for licensees, applicants and registrants to convert to electronic filing. 

Additionally, the agency poses a variety of questions around its included proposal to require all applicants to provide an email address on FCC forms related to these systems.

Once all comments are submitted, the agency plans to offer responses by Nov. 14.

The agency’s Chairman Ajit Pai initially announced these plans and how they fit into the agency’s broader digitization initiatives in late July. 

“As the communications marketplace is being transformed by the digital revolution, we must continue to modernize our own operations.” he said.

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