FCC's PRA and special access data collectionA recent comment on our Special Access blog (dated 8/5/13)asked if the data collection had passed the PRA analysis yet. A good question. But it suggested another one: what is the PRA anyway?


The PRA is a federal law that establishes a process for the review and approval of the information federal agencies collect from the public. In a nutshell, it is intended to minimize the paperwork burden on respondents and maximize the utility of the information collected. The PRA is administered by the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).


Information collection can occur in any form or format, including report forms (e.g., the Form 499A); application forms; reporting or recordkeeping requirements (e.g., the new CVAA recordkeeping requirements); rules or regulations (e.g., portions of the new Lifeline rules); surveys; questionnaires; and posting, notification, labeling, or similar disclosure requirements.


An information collection needs clearance if it requires disclosure of information through identical questions posed to (e.g., the Special Access data request), or identical reporting or recordkeeping requirements imposed on, ten or more persons. Clearance must be obtained regardless of whether the collection is voluntary or mandatory.


The FCC calls its PRA submissions to OMB “clearance requests.” They generally take three forms:

  • Extensions of previously approved information collections without changes;
  • Revisions or changes to an existing information collection;
  • New collections, where respondents are maintaining or disclosing an entirely new kind of information.


The PRA process requires a minimum of 145 days to complete, although there is a provision for emergency submissions. There are three main components:

  • An initial Federal Register notice notifying the public of the proposed information collection and soliciting comment within 60 days;
  • A formal request for OMB approval once the 60-day notice period has expired; and
  • A second Federal Register notice notifying the public that the clearance request has been submitted to OMB and that there is an additional 30-day public comment period.


Once OMB approves the information collection, a third notice is published in the Federal Register announcing the effective date. The FCC usually also issues a Public Notice announcing the effective date.


OMB may request changes to a proposed collection or disapprove it altogether. Approvals are effective for three years although approvals of emergency submissions are valid for only 90 days.


So, to answer the question posed about the Special Access data request, the 60-day PRA notice was initiated in February 2013, and the comment cycle was completed in April 2013. The August Order we are anticipating will include the FCC’s responses to the comments it received on the 60-day PRA notice. Once the Order is released, the FCC will request formal OMB approval and there will be another 30 day comment period.


You may also be wondering whether OMB ever disapproves an information collection. I did some research and found that, while few and far between, OMB has declined to approve some FCC information collections. The most recent one was in 2008 when OMB refused to approve the collection associated with the FCC’s emergency back-up power rules. As a result, those rules never went into effect. In 1999, OMB refused to approve the FCC’s truth-in-billing rules on an emergency basis, although they were later approved through the normal process.


If you want more information you can read the text of the PRA here.


FCC Special Access Data Request Questions



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