ACA Connects: Time for DBS to Pay Fair FCC Fee Share

ACA Connects praised the FCC's decision to continue to regularize the regulatory fees paid by cable operators and DBS providers.

The FCC released its new fee schedule this week, with the DBS fee raised by 12 cents over last year.

Satellite broadcasters used to be assessed a smaller, per-license fee, but the FCC in 2015 changed that to the same per-sub fee basis it uses for cable and IPTV, and began lowering cable fees and raising satellite.

Related: FCC Proposes to Raise DBS Regulatory Fee

The FCC had proposed to raise the cable/IPTV fee from 77 cents to 86 cents, and DBS from 48 cents to 60 cents.

Fees are based on how many full time employees (FTEs) it takes to regulate a particular service.

ACA Connects and other cable operators had told the FCC it was time MVPDs paid the same fee, cable or satellite, but while the FCC conceded that the same group of FTEs worked on issues for all three, it was "more prudent" to continue the transition and "adopt our proposal to increase such rates by one cent per subscriber per month, or 12 cents per subscriber per year."

But the FCC also rejected requests by satellite operators--AT&T and Dish--not to raise the fee at all, so it could have been worse.

ACA Connects is pleased to see the FCC continue to phase in the regulatory fee assessed on Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) providers – chiefly DirecTV and Dish – to support the work of the Media Bureau," said ACA Connects president Matt Polka.

But the cable trade association would have been more pleased had the FCC just cut to the chase and leveled the field, as cable operators had asked it to do this year.

"[S]maller MVPDs through their higher FCC regulatory fees have been subsidizing their much larger competitive rivals without a showing that DBS providers were placing less of a burden on Media Bureau staff resources," Polka said. "The time has long since come for DBS providers to pay their fair share. In fiscal year 2020, the FCC should complete its long journey to fee parity for all MVPDs.” 

John Eggerton

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.