Some Part 90 license holders who have yet to comply with a Federal Communications Commission construction audit will lose their licenses at the end of the month. However, the FCC has a process in place for licensees to appeal a revocation.

The FCC has been conducting an audit of Part 90 licenses below 800 MHz since August 2001. The Commission sent two separate letters to 267,000 licensees representing 420,000 call signs, requiring licensees to respond with construction information. As of February of this year, licensees representing 15,491 of the call signs had yet to respond. On February 9, 2004, the FCC issued two public notices. The first discussed the disposition of the licenses for 2,300 call signs for which the construction audit letters were returned as undeliverable. For these call signs, the FCC announced that it would delete the call signs from the Universal Licensing System if no response has been received by the end of March 2004.

The second public notice dealt with the balance of the call signs, for which audit letters were not returned as undeliverable. For these call signs, the FCC announced it would send a third audit letter, and licensees have until the end of March 2004 to respond or their call signs would be cancelled.

Even if you responded to the audit letters, it’s a good idea to check the FCC’s web site to see if your response was received. This is especially important if your response was prepared or filed by a third-party application preparation firm. If the third party did not file, or incorrectly filed your response, you will still be faced with license cancellation, with an extremely uphill battle to have the license reinstated. Whenever you file an important document with the FCC, regardless of whether you file a hard copy or electronically, you should obtain and keep a confirmation receipt of the filing. Every licensee should visit the FCC’s web site and ensure that the database accurately reflects your construction status. Use this link for the audit: http://wireless.fcc.gov/licensing/audits/plmrs.

There are several frequency coordinators and application preparation firms that are preparing interactive, searchable databases for which you can determine what licenses in your area have been cancelled. This can give you a heads-up on potential available spectrum in your area.

Once the deadline has passed, and your license is cancelled, the FCC’s rules provide that you may file a Petition for Reconsideration within thirty (30) days of the action. However, after the reconsideration period has lapsed, it will be extremely difficult to have a license reinstated. In an analogous situation, the FCC has been very reluctant to reinstate a license when the licensee failed to file a timely renewal application, and requested reinstatement more than thirty days after the license’s expiration date. Generally, this has been done only for public-safety entities, and even then there is the possibility of a fine for unlicensed operation for the time frame after license expiration.

Allan Tilles is MRT’s regulatory columnist. He is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio, Internet and entertainment industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy& Ecker. He can be reached at atilles@sgrpe.com.