In what has become an unfortunate annual event, the FCC has once again increased regulatory fees on local stations. At the same time the Commission has not imposed fees on many of the largest companies that use spectrum. For example, the FCC has authorized the use of unlicensed devices which allows big tech to use government spectrum without paying a fee. In a recent filing with the FCC, the NAB addressed this problem head on:
“For the third consecutive year, the Commission plans to significantly increase regulatory fees for broadcasters to unfair, unsustainable levels, and in a manner that is unlawful and ignores the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating economic impact on broadcasters. This year, broadcasters face a 5-15% increase in regulatory fees, despite the Commission’s general salary and expenses budget increasing by only 0.5%. For the first time, the vast majority of full power radio stations, even those that qualify as small business entities, will fall under the de minimis threshold of $1,000 to be exempt from paying regulatory fees. Although the NPRM continues its unfortunate annual tradition of failing to explain the basis of these increases in any meaningful way, the math alone makes it is apparent that broadcasters are not being charged more in regulatory fees because of any increased costs or benefits of their regulation. Rather, the Commission is forcing broadcasters to subsidize the regulation of other entities that are either: (1) contributing less than their fair share of the fees; or (2) allowed to free ride entirely on the Commission’s activities”
We agree with NAB and its specific recommendations.
- The Commission should adjust its proposal so that only the beneficiaries of the Commission’s broadband mapping activities pay for the associated costs.
- Second, the Commission should ensure that the wireless industry pays for its fair share of the Commission’s costs by including wireless full-time employees (FTEs) that are charged to auctions in the total Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s (WTB) direct FTE count for purposes of allocating indirect costs.
- Third, the Commission must take steps to require Big Tech and other unlicensed spectrum users pay for their fair share of the Commission’s activities from which they directly benefit. As broadcasters face year-after-year regulatory fee and application fee increases, it continues to make no sense that the Commission requires broadcasters, other licensees and consumers to subsidize some of the wealthiest, largest companies in the world who leverage Commission proceedings to develop profitable business models without contributing regulatory fees.
While the FCC can make minor adjustments to the way it calculates fees, it does not have the authority to eliminate fees altogether. Eliminating the regulatory fees would require an act of Congress.
We support NAB and are watching this issue closely. To see a copy of NAB’s Comments click HERE.
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