Wireless Industry Faces Calls to Increase Regulatory Fees

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By Tim McElgunn

Nov. 11 — Broadcasters and cable operators are on different sides of most issues, but the two groups agree on one thing—wireless service providers should be shouldering more of the load when it comes to Federal Communications Commission regulatory fees.

Both the American Cable Association (ACA)and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have filed comments on the FCC's Assessment and Collection of Regulatory Fees for Fiscal Year 2015, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, MD Docket No. 15-121 (Sep. 2, 2015) (Order or Further Notice) arguing, for different reasons, that the FCC needs to start charging wireless companies more.

In its proceeding, the commission said that “there is substantial convergence in the telecommunications industry” and “there are certain rules (e.g. universal service), that wireless and wireline services benefit from and the Wireline Competition Bureau FTEs provide the oversight and regulation of the industry in these areas.” The FTEs referenced by the agency are “full-time equivalents” or salaried positions.

ACA filed in support of proposals submitted to the FCC by the Independent Telephone & Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA) to re-allocate certain personnel expenses of the Wireline Competition Bureau—which is responsible for ensuring domestic access to affordable broadband and voice services—to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau,—the part of the FCC that regulates domestic wireless programs, policies and licensing—for purposes of calculating regulatory fees.

Effectively, they say, if Wireline Bureau staff do work that also benefits wireless providers, those companies should contribute toward funding that staff.

“The Commission has various options to account for the burdens wireless providers impose on [Wireline] Bureau personnel and adopt regulatory fees that reflect those burdens,” the ACA said in its filing.

NAB Wants Fees to Reflect Benefits Of Spectrum Auction

The NAB faces different issues arising from the upcoming incentive spectrum auction, in which many television stations will relinquish spectrum that will be repurposed for wireless communications. NAB says that when 200 – 400 stations go off the air as a result, the remaining stations will have to bear higher regulatory fees unless the total amount is reduced by shifting cost to the wireless industry.

In its filing, NAB says, “Indeed, the only equitable approach is for the regulatory fees to ‘follow the spectrum'. The spectrum to be repurposed through the incentive auction will benefit wireless service providers.”

CTIA Would Add Auction Proceeds in Calculating Contributions

The wireless industry, in a filing submitted by CTIA- The Wireless Association, an industry trade group, argues that the FCC must consider not only the fees assessed on wireless providers but also include spectrum auction proceeds. If those amounts are included, CTIA argues, the industry contributes more than any other to the FCC's annual budget.

As currently proposed, the FCC will apportion fees among regulated entities as follows:

•  Media Bureau (MB): 35.28 percent , $120.15 million;

•  Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB): 38.99 percent, $132.81 million;

•  Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB): 20.28 percent, $69.07 million; and

•  the International Bureau (IB): 5.45 percent, $18.56 million.


CTIA contends that a more accurate calculation, including auction proceeds, increases the wireless industries total contribution to 36.1 percent or $122.67 million.

Furthermore, CTIA says, staff from each of the individual FCC bureaus routinely contribute to regulatory activities that impact other sectors, making it impossible to reallocate FTEs among the bureaus without creating “significant uncertainty.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim McElgunn in Cherry Hill, NJ at tmcelgunn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

The FCC Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, MD Docket No. 15-121 can be found at: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-15-108A1.pdf

The ACC Filing can be found at: http://files.ctctcdn.com/1b2d0b0a401/08c9539a-f517-43cb-9c2f-467481955f71.pdf

The NAB Filing can be found at: http://www.nab.org/documents/newsRoom/pdfs/111015_Regulatory_Feess_Comments.pdf

The CTIA Filing can be found at: http://www.ctia.org/docs/default-source/fcc-filings/ctia-2015-reg-fee-reply-comments-7.pdf?sfvrsn=0