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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

FCC Freedom of Information

FCC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) The Freedom of Information Act,
commonly known as the FOIA, was enacted by Congress in 1966 to give
the American public greater access to the Federal Government's
records. The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996
expanded the scope of the FOIA to encompass electronic records and
require the creation of "electronic reading rooms" to make records
more easily and widely available to the public. Most recently in
December 2005, Executive Order 13392, "Improving Agency Disclosure of
Information," reaffirmed that FOIA "has provided an important means
through which the public can obtain information regarding the
activities of Federal agencies" and required Federal agencies to make
their FOIA programs "citizen-centered and results-oriented."

The following is an informal explanation of the FOIA process at the
FCC. Please consult the full text of the FCC's regulations
implementing the FOIA, found at 47 C.F.R. §§ 0.441 - 0.470, before
filing a FOIA request. In addition, you may wish to consult the United
States Department of Justice's annual guide to the FOIA entitled
Freedom of Information Act Guide and Privacy Overview that contains an
extensive analysis of the statute and FOIA case law. If these
reference guides do not provide you the information you need to submit
your FOIA request, you can also contact the FCC's FOIA Requester
Service Center via phone, email, or surface mail. Get contact
information for the FOIA Requester Service Center.

What types of materials are available without filing a FOIA request?

You do not have to file a FOIA request to obtain information which is
routinely available for public inspection, including records from
docketed cases, broadcast applications and related files, petitions
for rulemakings, various legal and technical publications, legislative
history compilations, etc. See 47 C.F.R. §§ 0.453 and 0.455. Much of
this information is available on our website.

How do I obtain publicly available documents and other materials from the FCC?

Many of these documents and other FCC publications already appear on
the FCC's Internet Homepage. Documents may also be viewed in the FCC
Reference Information Center at the FCC Headquarters at 445 12th
Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554. The Reference Information Center
is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM
and from 8:00 AM to 11:30 AM on Friday. A person who wants to inspect
publicly available FCC records need only appear at the Commission's
headquarters and ask to see the records. Alternatively, you may write
or telephone in advance to schedule a date and time to make the
records available for inspection. Advance notice to the FCC is
suggested in some circumstances, i.e., if the request is for a large
number of documents or for older documents which may have to be
recalled from storage. Get more information about the Reference
Information Center.

Copies of any available materials can be made in the FCC Reference
Information Center or obtained through the FCC's copy contractor, Best
Copy Printing, Inc. (BCPI) at (202) 488-5300, (202) 488-5563 or

How do I file a FOIA request?

To make a FOIA request pursuant to 47 C.F.R. § 0.461, you have several options:

(1) You may fill out the Electronic FOIA Request Form and submit it to us; or

(2) You may write to us via surface mail. If you choose to send your
request via surface mail you MUST: (a) write the words "Freedom of
Information Act Request" at the top of your letter and on the outside
of the mailing envelope, (b) date your request, (c) give us your
daytime telephone number and/or daytime e-mail contact address so that
our staff can get in touch with you during normal business hours if
they have questions, and (d) provide as much information as possible
regarding each document you are seeking. You should also specify the
maximum search fee that you are prepared to pay for this request. Send
your letter to the address below.

(3) You may also fax or e-mail your request to the contact information below.

What types of materials are available through a FOIA request?

Under the FOIA and the FCC's implementing rules, you are allowed to
obtain copies of FCC records unless the records contain information
that is exempt under the FOIA from mandatory disclosure. To learn
about these exemptions, please scroll down to the next section.

What types of materials are not available under FOIA?

Although most FCC documents, records, and publications are accessible
through FOIA, some types of FCC records are not available. Section
552(b) of the FOIA contains nine types of records which are routinely
exempt from disclosure under the FOIA:

1.Records classified national defense or foreign policy materials, 5
U.S.C. § 552(b)(1);

2.Internal personnel rules and agency practices, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2);

3.Information specifically exempted from disclosure by another
statute, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3);

4.Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from
a person and privileged or confidential, 5 U.S.C § 552(b)(4);

5.Inter- or intra-agency memoranda or letters which would not be
available to a party in litigation with the agency, 5 U.S.C. §

6.Personnel, medical and similar files, disclosure of which would
constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, 5
U.S.C. § 552(b)(6);

7.Records compiled for law enforcement purposes, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7);

8.Records relating to the examination, operations, or condition of
financial institutions, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(8); and

9.Oil well data, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)(9).

Even if a record falls within one of these FOIA exemptions, the FCC
may, in some circumstances, release the records, depending upon the
exemption at issue and the circumstances of the FOIA request.

Are there any privacy considerations which the FCC must consider in
granting your FOIA request?

Under the FOIA Exemption 6 and the Privacy Act, the FCC may be
prohibited from disclosing information about an individual from a
system of records without the written consent of the individual to
whom the record pertains.

Can the FCC deny my FOIA request?

Yes. If the Bureau or Office that is the custodian of the records
determines that there are no records responsive to your request, or
that one or more of the FOIA exemptions described above applies to the
documents you request, your request will be denied in writing.

How long will it take to get the information that I request?

Under the FOIA, the FCC must determine within 20 business days of
receipt of your FOIA request by the FOIA Requester Service Center
whether it is appropriate to grant or deny a FOIA request. The FCC
makes every effort to act on a request within this time frame. If we
determine that your request will take longer than 20 days to process,
we will notify you in writing explaining the circumstances requiring
the extension and establishing a date for response of not more than 10
working days beyond the initial 20-day limit.

However, if the FCC determines that the request cannot be processed
within this 10 day extension, we will provide you with an opportunity
to modify your request so that it may be processed within the extended
time limit, or provide an opportunity for you to arrange with the FCC
for an alternative timeframe for processing the original or modified
request. We will also advise you of any additional charges involved.
For this reason, it is important for you to include a telephone number
where we can call you to discuss any issues involving your FOIA
request. Even if we call, you will receive a letter from the FCC
confirming your consent to any additional time and/or costs that may
be necessary to comply with your FOIA request.

You may seek expedited processing of your FOIA request if you have a
compelling need for the documents.

If my FOIA request is denied, what can I do?

If your FOIA request is denied in whole or in part, the Bureau or
Office that made the decision will notify you of the denial of your
request and of your right to file an administrative application for
review. The application for review and the envelope containing it
should have the words "Review of Freedom of Information Action"
clearly written on them and must be filed within 30 calendar days of
the date of the Bureau or Office's written decision. A FOIA
application for review should be sent to the Office of General
Counsel, Federal Communications Commission, 445 - 12th Street, S.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20554. A copy of the application for review should
also be sent to the person (if any) who originally submitted the
records you are seeking. If the FCC denies your application for review
in whole or in part, you may seek judicial review of that decision in
a United States District Court.

Are there any costs to making a FOIA request?

Yes. Under the FOIA, we are allowed to charge for our research and
reproduction services under certain conditions. Your FOIA request
should specify the amount of FOIA fees you are willing to pay. Please
note, under 47 CFR § 0.467(e), if the Commission estimates that your
search charges are likely to exceed $25 or an amount which you have
indicated you are willing to pay, we will notify you of the estimated
fee charge prior to doing the search and give you the opportunity to
revise or clarify your FOIA request.

Commercial use requesters will be assessed charges that recover the
full direct costs associated with the search, review, and duplication
of records.

Educational institutions, representatives of the news media, and
non-commercial scientific institution requesters must pay for
duplication only, and will not be charged for the first 100 pages.
News media requesters, however, are entitled to a reduced assessment
only when the request is for the purpose of disseminating information.

The Commission will charge all other requesters who do not fit into
any of the categories above fees which cover the full, reasonable
direct cost of searching for and reproducing records that are
responsive to the request, except that the first 100 pages of the
reproduction and the first two hours of search time shall be free of

If you believe you are entitled to a restricted fee assessment, or a
fee waiver, you must provide us with a statement explaining with
specificity the reasons demonstrating why you qualify for a restricted
fee or a fee waiver, including a statement certifying that the
information will not be used to further your commercial interests.
Please consult the rules, 47 C.F.R. § 0.470(c) - (e), when seeking a
restricted fee or fee waiver.

The search fee is based on the salary level of the employee(s) who
conducts the search. The fee charge is computed at the Step 5 of the
specified grade level plus 20 percent to cover personnel benefits.