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ACA to FCC: Cable, DBS Should Have Regulatory Fee Parity

The American Cable Association gave the FCC credit for boosting DBS regulatory fees, but pointed out that cable ops were still paying 150% more per sub—96 cents versus 38 cents for DBS—under the FCC proposed 2017 regulatory fee schedule. Meanwhile DBS operators were crying foul over being lumped into the same regulatory category.

That came in comments—due this week—on the FCC's May proposal of new fees.

The FCC has been phasing in its decision three years ago to start assessing per-sub fees on DBS operators, as it does on other MVPDs (it used to assess a much lower per-license fee), but ACA suggested it needed to get the lead out. 

It set the DBS fee at 12 cents per sub in 2015, then 27 cents in 2016, and now the proposed 38 cents. 

"This increase brings cable and IPTV and DBS providers closer to regulatory parity," ACA told the FCC this week, but "while appreciated, still results in Cable/IPTV providers paying $0.58 per subscriber more than DBS providers."

Fees are assessed according to how many FCC full-time employees (FTEs) are required to oversee a particular service, in this case DBS and cable by the media bureau. 

"Cable, IPTV and DBS providers impose similar burdens on the Media Bureau. It is inequitable to continue to assess fees in a manner that does not equitably distribute the regulatory fee burden among all MVPD payors," ACA said.

For its part, DBS operators Dish and DirecTV told the FCC in a joint filing that the increase from 12 cents to 38 was an unsupportable and "staggering" 217% boost. "[T]he Commission has failed to explain how regulatory developments in the last year justify a dramatic rate increase for the third consecutive year," Dish and DirecTV parent AT&T told the commission.

They said there is evidence in the record that two DBS operators "have never generated, and do not generate now, anything approaching the regulatory costs that hundreds of cable operators do."

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.