FCC Announces Procedures for Appeals of Relocation Payment Clearinghouse Decisions

On March 21, 2022, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“WTB”) released a Public Notice establishing the procedures for the filing and processing of challenges to decisions made by the 3.7-4.2 GHz (“C-band”) Relocation Payment Clearinghouse (“Clearinghouse”).  The WTB will only consider an appeal after the relevant party or parties (e.g., an eligible incumbent or eligible 3.7 GHz licensee) file a timely notice of objection (the “Notice”) with the Clearinghouse; interlocutory appeals, before a timely Notice is filed, will not be considered by the WTB.  The Notice is required to be filed within 20 days of the Clearinghouse issuing an invoice after reviewing a lump sum or reimbursement claim.  Parties that may wish to join an objection must do so within 30 days of the invoice issuance.  The WTB has established two paths for appeal: 1) Single-Party Disputes, where only one eligible party has filed a timely Notice and no other eligible party has elected to join; and 2) Multi-Party Disputes, where more than one eligible party files a timely Notice regarding the same determination with the Clearinghouse, and the mediation and arbitration provisions of section 27.1421(b) have been satisfied.

Single-Party Dispute Process

For Single-Party Disputes, after a timely Notice is filed, the appealing party must submit a written appeal to the WTB within 30 days from the date any other eligible party fails to file a timely notice of objection with the clearing house.  The WTB will issue a Public Notice setting a pleading cycle, after which, the Clearinghouse will have 10 days to respond.  The appealing party will have 5 days after the response date to file a reply.  Third parties are not permitted to submit filings.  All filings must be submitted in WT Docket No. 21-333 and comply with the filing requirements set forth in the Notice. The appealing party bears the burden of proof and their costs associated with the appeal will not be considered reimbursable transition expenses.

Multi-Party Dispute Process

For Multi-Party Disputes, the parties must first satisfy the mediation and arbitration requirements in 47 C.F.R. 27.1421(b).  If, after complying with mediation or arbitration, there remain unresolved issues, then the Clearinghouse may refer the matter to the WTB within 10 days of the recommended decision or advice from the Clearinghouse or other mediator.  The Clearinghouse will forward the entire record to the WTB, and the WTB will rely upon the factual record as provided by the Clearinghouse.  All parties who joined the objection before the Clearinghouse will be automatically made parties to the appeal unless they opt out by providing written notice to the WTB.  The WTB will issue a Public Notice upon receipt of the record, after which, each party will have 10 days from the date of the notice to submit statements of position or opt out of the appeal.  Statements are limited to issues raised in mediation or arbitration and facts in the record.  Each party bears the burden of proof to demonstrate that their view is correct and appealing parties bear responsibility for their costs associated with the appeal.

Process for Appealing the WTB Decision

Following a WTB decision via either process, any party may appeal the WTB decision.  Such an appeal must be initiated within 10 days of the effective date of the WTB decision by filing a petition for de novo review, whereupon the Commission will set the matter for an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge.  During this proceeding, the Commission may require additional documentation related to any disputed matters, or expert engineering, economic, or other testimony.

Clearinghouse appeals are considered restricted proceedings, and no ex parte presentations are permitted.  None of the costs associated with this process will be eligible as a reimbursable transition expense.

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