Reuters Limited, FCC

781 F.2d 946 (D.C. Cir. 1986)


P filed new applications, pursuant to D's order, for microwave radio licenses for a single channel in each of thirteen cities across the Nation. The applications were duly accepted for filing and listed on a Public Notice dated August 12, 1983. In the following month, on September 23, 1983, the Commission's Private Radio Bureau approved all thirteen applications. Associated Information Services Corporation submitted thirty-nine applications for each of the available channels in the same thirteen cities for which P had applied the preceding month. Associated's applications were misfiled, having been submitted to the Commission's offices in Washington, D.C., whereas applicable FCC rules required that such applications be filed 80 miles to the north at the FCC's offices in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Associated's competing applications were not effectively filed until five days later -- on September 28, 1983 -- when its thirty-nine applications found their way to Gettysburg. At the time of the grant to P, no competing applications had been effectively filed. In due course, on October 12, 1983, D mailed P the thirteen licenses which bore the following words: 'Effective Date -- September 23, 1983.' Associated vehemently protested the grant. Associated contended that the Commission acted improperly in granting the licenses prior to the expiration of sixty days following the date on which new applications were accepted. In Associated's view, the Commission had represented quite clearly in a rulemaking proceeding that a full sixty-day period for filing applications would be allowed. Associated had specifically relied, it maintained, upon the Commission's statements to that effect in timing its thirty-nine applications. P maintained that D's rules governing microwave radio licenses expressly permitted licenses to be awarded after the expiration of thirty days following an application. Under the present facts, more than thirty days had expired from the initial date for accepting applications, as provided by the Commission's rules; and second, no competing applications were on file as of the date of the grant. D resolved the dispute in favor of Associated. While thus rejecting the thrust of Associated's arguments, D set aside P's thirteen licenses and designated Associated's applications as mutually exclusive. P appealed to the full Commission. D agreed that the Bureau could lawfully issue a license any time after thirty days following D's announced date on which applications would be received. Even so, D concluded that considerations of fairness required evisceration of P's license grants and that Associated be permitted to stand alongside P as a full competitor for these licenses. P appealed.