EMF Expert Continuing EdU.S.

Strategies for Submitting an Effective Public Comment, or FCC Petition

Don't let your valuable FCC Public Comment Get Kicked to the Curb

The current FCC ET Docket 19-226 request for comments is asking for input from the public on a number of issues, the most significant is how to define and regulate the transmission of power using RF for the purposes of charging or running electrical/electronic devices. In other words, how much energy will be allowed to be transmitted without wires to keep your technology (think cellphones or electric cars) running without ever having to be plugged in for recharging. Yikes! This is a game changer and you can see why volumes of public comment are needed all due by May 15, 2020.

To begin with the importance of public commenting, which is a type of FCC petition, itself cannot be overstated because it is, in effect, your government asking for you input on decisions it is making on your behalf at a citizen.

However, far beyond that “self evident truth”, the importance of submitting effective comments to the FCC cannot be overstated since many a noble EMF Safety Advocate Group has submitted hundreds of pages of heart rendering public comment only to have it instantly dismissed and thrown on the heap with the hundreds of other public comments that did not follow the instructions for submitting comments. This 406 page public comment was a notable example.

For years, all the while the FCC has been making decisions and changing rules when it comes to expanding wireless communication, countless well-intended EMF safety advocates have tried and failed to get their public comments to bear any weight on the FCC decision making process because they don’t know how to follow instructions, or they would follow the instructions if they could if they only understood them.

In the last round of commenting, which closed in January 2020, the FCC received roughly 1000 comments on their Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which is not impressive when you realize that if the public wants to stop 5G there needs to be 1,000,000 and more people making comments. So, again, we can see that public comment is important.

Public Commenting is not a formality, it is the public’s direct line of communication to its government agencies. The FCC sends out requests for public comments because they are required to by law; it is the democratic way.  As I write this the FCC is considering revisions to the wireless communication (radio frequency emissions) safety standards and, as they do regularly, they are again asking for public comment at this time.

It is important that the FCC receives your comment, and that you know how to submit it effectively for it to be considered.

So, having sat on many Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) committees specifically designed for reviewing standards, let me take you through a guided tour of the FCC public comment process to show you how the IEEE, or you, and any member of the public, can submit comments effectively. The IEEE is the world’s largest association of technical professionals, hundreds of thousands of members in over 160 countries, and it regularly submits public comments to the FCC that are taken into consideration, so we can learn “a thing or two” about how to make effective comments.

Basically, what we see first off is that effective commenting means above all that the comments must be submitted correctly and relevantly. The IEEE comments do not get taken into consideration because it has some special power as an organization, its comments get considered because it submits them correctly according to FCC procedure and keeps them relevant to the question that the FCC is asking.

When we set out to contribute a comment to the public dialog, it is helpful to realize from the outset that the prime objective is to submit a comment that will become part of the official public record, where it will have the most impact and the benefit of setting a precedent for all future dialog and decision making. It would be unrealistic to think that one comment can effect sweeping change, however even one comment that becomes part of the official public records has enormous power as a precedent setting source down the long road to change.

Rule One – to get a public comment to be considered at all it first must be correctly submitted.

A correctly submitted comment involves numerous things;  for starters it requires it must be submitted during the requested Public Comment time period.

We have a perfect example of a public comment opportunity right in front of us now as I write this. Keep in mind as we look at this example, it can serve us anytime in the future when we want to comment on anything our government agencies are proposing.

Correctly Submitted Timing

The latest FCC request for public comment involves the 158 page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (title abbreviated here for simplicity), which has a deadline of May 15, 2020 for Public Comment   The date that establishes the Public Comment period is 30 days from the date when the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register (.gov), which is the government’s directory of publications from all agencies; this is where you can find upcoming proposed changes and get prepared to submit your comment.  In the 30 day period following the Public Comments period, (in this case, up to or before June 16th), is called the Reply Comments, the time period when replies to comments can be received.  

The public is invited to comment during a very specific 30 day period, so consider this the first rule any commenter must obey in order to have their comment accepted, so that it is in the public record, so that in future it can be referred to in later discussion. In the same way, any comments replying to previous comments, must be received in the specific 30 day period allocated to Comment Replies. The IEEE is considered “public” just like any member of the public, so even if the mighty IEEE did not observe the correct timing of comments it would not be accepted or taken into consideration.

Correctly Submitted Procedure

Next you’ll find the FCC links to make public comments on FCC filings and proceedings, and this is also the place to download the document (Docket) that is posted calling for Public Comments.

Rule Two – know what the FCC is asking for in order to submit a relevant comment. 

Again, to be considered relevant a comment, as to relevancy, involves numerous things. For starters it involves knowing what the issue to be addressed is, and the proposal as titled may or may not be a clue. The FCC document will include specific topics where comments are requested. All other comments submitted will be dismissed without being specifically addressed in the final rules.

The Relevancy of the Title

In the current example of the FCC’s request for public comment, is a legal document titled ET Docket 19-226 (ET stands for the Office of Engineering and Technology). It it titled, “Targeted Changes to the Commission’s Rules Regarding Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields.  RESOLUTION OF NOTICE OF INQUIRY, SECOND REPORT AND ORDER, NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING, AND MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER”.

The title of this 158 page FCC proposal (public proceeding) tells us 4 things:

  • that the previous inquiry has been resolved, and it will not be further modified. Case closed.
  • a second report of the rules that resulted from that inquiry (Paragraph 17). Open for comment.
  • a part of this report is seeking to write a new rule it sets out a new topic of “proposed rulemaking”; by the way, this is a new topic never issued before (Paragraph 119) Open for comment
  • the FCC’s intent to draft a rule and make it happen (Paragraph 149) Open for comment

The information and the stated purpose of this title tells us what information is relevant to address in your comments; anything else you comment on will be deemed irrelevant and will be dismissed as irrelevant.

The Relevancy of the Document Content

Now you know what general topics are open to comment, however, don’t expect to find an instruction page on how to make public comments. Instead you will find the instructions interspersed throughout the content of the document itself. To be specific, what you are looking for is any statement that says it is requesting comment (a search of the 158 page document will reveal dozens of references to the keyword “comment”). Wherever you find the word “comment” in the lengthy document is where you will find an FCC request for comment, and that request will always be in relation to a very specific topic, usually a question, that you find there. The FCC is asking for comment, but what it really means it that it is asking for advice and proposed solutions as it applies to that particular topic where the request for comment is found.

So, when you are efficiently commenting on a certain topic, you will want to reference the line in the document where the request for comment was located, and then keep your remarks strictly relevant to that question, or topic. Experienced FCC Commenters, use the document search feature to scroll through the FCC documents in order to find a topic that fits with a comment that they would like to make. In other words, their answer (comment) has to fit the FCC’s question (request for comment) in order that their submission to be considered relevant. If a comment is deemed irrelevant it will be disqualified and not taken into consideration from the start.

The Irrelevancy of Submitting Studies

The impulse to submit studies that show biological harm of radio frequencies is a common mistake of many 5G activists and concerned citizens. They assume that they were being asked to persuade the FCC when that is not what the FCC is asking for. The problem is that there are no studies that the FCC refers to specifically; this is what makes public comment regarding studies a moot point, a legal term that means “a completely inconsequential point” in the dialog.

The FCC ruling says “based on the recommendations of IEEE, ICNIRP and WHO we are using these numbers to base the rules on”. Now imagine that the FCC was forced to use their own studies to set standards, then (and only then) could public comment include the matter of specific studies, specifically any concern related to a study that supported a perspective the commenter was putting forward. As it is, the FCC avoids the issue by simply stating they go with the conclusions of those official organizations studying the studies, whose conclusions they adopt as “recommendations”.  So, following this rule, and not confusing the matter with logic, submitting a public comment saying something to the effect that a certain key study is obviously being mistakenly overlooked is beside the point, because it is outside the rules the FCC has set, and sure to get your comment disqualified.

The IEEE is submitting a 14 page document in response to the current FCC request for comment, all advising the FCC how to reconcile the differences between IEEE and ICNIRP, and why they should, based on each organization’s separate study of the studies. The purpose of the IEEE comment is to urge the FCC to reconcile the differences in the two safety standard conclusions based on their differing interpretation of the studies, however in the entire comment no mention of specific studies is pointed out, because that is all beside the point to the FCC. The IEEE, a seasoned FCC Commenter, always keeps it relevant. But the use of the word ‘relevance’ here does not mean the same thing it does in everyday English, when to EMF safety advocates it is all entirely “irrelevant”, when the discussion centers around heating effects and not biological effects.

FCC Offers Two Opportunities for Public Comment

Standard Filing Comments

https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings – Think of this comment as though you were giving the FCC advice they asked you for, namely, “What we should do, and why should we do it?”

Examples of Effective Standard Filing Comments

All of the following examples of excellent comment submissions were in relation to FCC reviews of safety standards, they all followed the instructions for commenting, met all the requests for certain Comment content, stuck to the topic they were addressing, provided relevant information, and actionable proposed solutions.

Blake Levitt, Author of Electromagnetic Fields, and Henry Lai, Cellphone Research Scientist submitted this 38 page Public Comment on ET Docket 13-84, that was acknowledged in Docket 19-226, and is now in the permanent record

Cynthia Franklin, President of the advocacy group Consumers for Safe Cellphones, submitted this 11 page comment on Docket 13-84 that was referenced in ET Docket 19-226, which means her Comment is now included in the public record.

Dr Joel Moskowitz, Director of Center for Family and Community Health, submitted this 12 page comment regarding ET Docket 03-137, giving the FCC advice based on his knowledge that was incorporated into the subsequent request for comment.

These are all excellent examples of Public Comments that were correctly submitted and relevant to the FCC’s reconnaissance mission to find out “what they should do and how should they do it.” These are the types of comments that we should aspire to if we are intent on contributing to

Express Public Comments

https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express – this is the express “quick comment” feature where the public is invited to give feedback that does not include any supporting uploads. These comments are not taken into consideration like the comments with supporting documents, nor will they be entered in the public record with standard filing comments, however quick comments are useful for demonstrating to the FCC sheer numbers of like-minded public opinions, AND they become part of the overall response profile (read an excerpt from the recent response profile below in How the FCC Decides What to Do with Comments). In any case, resist the temptation to dash off a quick comment as though you were giving your opinion or reaction to a typical blog. There still are strategies that improve your chances of being perceived as relevant so as to have your comment taken into consideration and ultimately included in the legal public record for all time.

EHS.org and many other advocate groups have typically used this comment feature to provide the FCC with numerous quotes from doctors, scientists, and researchers, however, as mentioned, referring to studies, impressive though they might be, is not that “relevant” to the FCC, when it is their policy to rely on other official organizations to do that footwork for them and simply hand the FCC their recommendations. These are viewed as irrelevant and unsolicited comments when what the the FCC is asking for is specific advice “what should we do, and how should we do it”. So, tell them. Mentally put yourself in the position of being their Boss, which you are, aren’t you?

Examples of Effective Quick Comments:

Example 1 – The FCC dismissal of legitimate public concerns makes citizens angry and distrustful off the FCC. Don’t tell us there is no evidence of biological harm from RF when we can find it readily on the internet from WHO and numerous other recognized authorities. Tell us there are studies for and against and let us comment on which ones we would like you to pay particular attention to.

Example 2 –This is a government agency serving the pubic, therefore give us, the public, opportunities to comment on general public concerns. Do not limit commenting only to technical aspects beyond the average person’s knowledge, or dismiss comments that you deem irrelevant. Publish all comments. Put every concerned citizen comment in the “public record”.

Example 3 – Write your comment instructions clearly and openly, in everyday English (8th grade level), for the average person who is impacted by your decisions in their everyday life, so that he/she can understand what he/she is required to do in order to submit a comment that will be genuinely taken into consideration.

Example 4 –The FCC can no longer afford to separate health impact from technology innovation or economic opportunity. What we – the public, technology industries and the economy – really need from the FCC is to guide industry to innovating safer technology.

The comments above are simply intended to deliver common sense messages that are relevant to the FCC methods of operation in the big picture, and although they will not be considered, referenced or applied to the decision making process on the current Docket, they allow citizens to be involved, and each individual who participates in the democratic process of expressing an opinion will be counted in the total of like-minded responses on any particular general subject.

Here is a 5G Advocate Group whose strategy is to bombard the FCC using the Express Comments, by providing their members with sample comment content, prompting them to fill in and add other suggested info so as to make each comment more unique and original. Again, because these comments are Express Comments they will not be officially considered, referenced or applied, however they allow citizens to be directly involved and to add to the total number count of like-minded responses.

And numbers do indeed matter! As a public body we have been totally lax at contributing our comments (both Standard Filing Comments and Express Comments) to the FCC dialog (via one related Docket after another) that has been occurring in the last twenty years, which all basically has had to do with proposed changes to the FCC safety standards.

For instance, when the FCC was first gearing up for the coming 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G, Docket 03-137 (Interpretation Tip: 137th document produced in 2003) was disseminated on August 6, 2003. There were 978 public comments for Docket 03-137 whose last accepted comment was Oct 18th, 2019. In other words 978 public comments regarding proposed changes to safety standards were received over a seventeen year period. Notably, EMF safety advocate ground-breakers, Dr Joel Moskovitz who submitted 9 comments of the 978 with 7 of those submitted in the last month, and Dr Devra Davis of Environmental Health Trust submitted 30 comments of the 978, from 2013 to 2019.

So, how vigorous has our (meaning us personally) public commenting been lately? What do our commenting numbers look like today on the issue of proposed FCC safety standards, as we again face a commenting deadline May 15, 2020, asking us for comments about FCC’s newest proposed changes to safety standards for 5G frequencies?

In the most recent proposed changes, Docket 13-84 (the 84th document produced in 2013), 1,303 public comments were submitted, with the last accepted comment on January 4, 2020. In other words 1,303 comments were received over a seven year period, which seems like a rise in public comment submissions until we consider that the rise in numbers is largely attributed to easier commenting via online forms.

Whichever way we look at it the number of public FCC petition / comments are minuscule compared to numbers that would speak to Congress, bringing the public dissatisfaction with the FCC safety standards to their attention.

Bottomline, by any and all means, COMMENT! And do it now.
Send the FCC your Express Comment at:

What Goes on in the Mind of the FCC?

How The FCC Decides What to Do with Public Comments

This is the text from ET Docket No. 19-226 describing the dismissal of comments from the previous NPRM ET Docket No. 13-84, which occurred early in 2020. How the FCC describes why it dismissed or accepted comments gives us an important guide to go by when submitting effective comments. Numbers at the beginning of paragraphs are FCC numbers for referencing.

12 In the inquiry, we sought comment to determine whether our general rules and regulations limiting RF exposure are still appropriately drawn.

Over 1,000 [1303] comments or ex parte presentations were filed in the proceeding. The vast majority of filings were unscientific, and even the filings that sought to present scientific evidence failed to make a persuasive case for revisiting our existing RF limits. While the record includes some research information, there is no persuasive case in the record to evaluate the quality and significance of that research. Nor do cases advocating alternatives in the record provide sufficient scientific evidence or explanation justifying why the proposed reductions are the appropriate value(s), or how they might affect the viability or performance of wireless services and devices. In other words, while the record includes scientific papers of variable quality and significance that allude to more restrictive RF exposure limits under certain circumstances, they fail to provide any specific, pragmatic recommendation for how our RF exposure limits could be adjusted as a result of this research.

The Inquiry requested comment on whether any general technical approach to reduce exposure below our limits in some situations is appropriate or feasible, particularly in cases in which there is no specific quantitative goal for improvement.

Commenters that provided scientific articles did not answer our request for a specific, quantitative goal but many provided descriptive references to the BioInitiative Report and Building Biology, which specify extremely low limits (0.3-0.6 nW/m2 and 0.1 μW/m2, respectively) for RF energy exposure—limits that are millions to billions times more restrictive than FCC limits.

No device could reliably transmit any usable level of energy by today’s technological standards while meeting those limits.

Further, there is no scientific evidence in the record that such restrictive limits would produce any tangible benefit to human health, or provide any improvement over current protections against established risks.

Moreover as noted by the FDA, there is no evidence to support that adverse health effects in humans are caused by exposures at, under, or even in some cases above, the current RF limits.

Indeed, no scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.

13 While some commenters seek Commission action to tighten RF exposure standards, others suggest that the Commission should revise its RF exposure standards to be consistent with less restrictive international standards, like the IEEE or the ICNIRP RF standard. For similar reasons that we decline to make changes that would tighten the current standard, we decline to make any changes that would effectively relax our current standard. Accordingly, we conclude that the best available evidence, including our consideration of the opinions provided by our expert sister agencies, supports maintaining our current RF exposure standards.

Understanding the importance of lots and lots of repeated public feedback made directly to our government rule making agencies, and knowing how to submit public comment, an FCC petition of one, is key in not getting left by the side of the road as the wireless technology industry barrels past at top speed.

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Chris Young

Chris has been a licensed Professional Electrical Engineer for over 40 years, practicing in nearly half the States in the USA and serving as CEO of Executive Engineering Services for companies dedicated to making electrical power safer for people. His areas of professional expertise include utility, industrial, commercial and government entities, as well as private homes and work places. Though Chris was once an avid electronic technophile working in a corporate WiFi cloud, with constantly ringing cellphones holstered on each hip accommodating the 30 international engineering services offices reporting directly to him, his growing concern for Electrosmog, the consumer obliviousness to it, and the lack of expert understanding of biological hazards along with the lack of health-minded safety standards to deal with it, prompted him to retire early in order to devote his expertise to being part of the bigger solution - living with our technology safely and using it knowledgeably. Today, in addition to his highly respected training of worldwide Certified EMF Expert Consultants. Chris serves on the IEEE committees reviewing EMF safety standards, and he is a highly sought after leading authority on EMF Detection and Protection.

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