Know Your FCC Rulemaking Process

In the last couple of days, there has arisen quite a furor over a petition to change the rules regarding the use of digital modes. The petition number is RM-11392. You can find it on the FCC website by going to and entering the petition number in the “Proceeding” text box. The petition will be the highest numbered document returned.

Part of the brouhaha arose because many thought that rules changes were imminent. They urged everyone to rush right over to the FCC website and comment. As far as I can see, howeever, this petition is nowhere near being turned into rules changes.

On the page FCC Rulemaking Process, the FCC describes the four steps that occur before a petition is translated into rules changes:

  1. Notice of Inquiry (NOI). During this phase, they gather comments on the petition.
  2. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). If they determine that a petition has merit, they move to this stage. These are the rules changes that the FCC itself proposes to make, based on the petition and the comments received.
  3. Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM). Changes may be made to the NPRM after receiving comments on the NPRM.
  4. Report & Order (R&O). The R&O is the document containing the rules changes or an explanation of why no rules changes are being made at this time.

Now, as far as I can see, there is no NPRM in the list of documents relating to RM-11392. The petition was filed on 3/27/07, released for comments on 8/22/07, and the first comment wasn’t entered until 11/20/07. Only two other comments were entered until the recent publicity.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that it isn’t important to read and comment on this petition. Don’t get your knickers in a twist over this just yet, though. The changes being proposed are still a long way from becoming part of Part 97, and if you ask me for a predicition, I’d guess that it will never even get to the NPRM stage.

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