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Why is the FCC Keeping Broadband-Privacy Filings Out of Sight?

The Federal Communications Commission, which is all about protecting online privacy these days, has been keeping the number of recent filings in its online broadband privacy docket private as well. displays the proceedings with the most comments in the past 30 days. The business-data services item, for example, whose reply comment period expired in the past 30 days, had 175 comments. The Technological Advisory Council Noise Floor Technical Inquiry had 73 comments.

The Wire was searching the list for the broadband-privacy docket because that topic has gotten a lot of attention of late, including FCC comments shared with journalists as they were being filed. But broadband privacy — docket 16-106 for those keeping score at home — was nowhere to be found on the most-active list. Even “The Effects of Communications Towers on Migratory Birds” docket made the list with a goose egg, as it were (no comments).

In fact, the bottom four items on the list had zero comments. Why four items with no comments made the list of most active dockets seemed odd, particularly when the page itself says the “Most Active List” is of “proceedings that have had comments filed in the past 30 days.”

And there must be dozens of other docketed items with no comments in the past 30 days, so why those four in particular?

A search of the electronic comment filing system found that broadband privacy had drawn 53 comments in the past 30 days. If our math is right, 53 is more than zero. We sought some answers.

An FCC spokesperson had no comment. But a source familiar with the list said it is actually a combination of the 10 most active proceedings as determined by the number of filings in the last 30 days (privacy actually had the 11th-most comments in the past 30 days), plus various other proceedings that aren’t actually necessarily the most active — like those four with zero comments — but are put on the list anyway.

As the source explains it, there are a certain number of dockets that certain bureaus have requested be marked as “hot” regardless of their actual popularity, an interesting twist to the list that apparently has been going on for a while.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.