ACA Praises Thune FCC Reauthorization Bill

The American Cable Association says it supports Sen. John Thune's just-introduced and soon to be voted on FCC Reauthorization Act of 2016.

"It is important that federal laws and regulations stay up-to-date with current marketplace conditions," ACA president Matt Polka said Friday. "ACA agrees with Commerce Chairman Sen. [John] Thune [R-S.D.] that work on an FCC reauthorization bill can be useful in achieving this outcome and yielding more certainty for market participants and the millions of consumers they serve."

Thune is wasting no time getting to work on the bill, which was introduced earlier this week. On March 16, the Senate Commerce Committee will mark up the bill, which allows Congress to modify the terms under which the FCC operates and how funds may be spent.

Among other things, the bill reauthorizes the FCC for only two years and includes funding for the spectrum auction. It also requires the GAO to study FCC regulatory fees—the FCC assesses fees based on allocating full time employees (FTEs) to various regulatory-related functions.

That part of the bill was of particular interest to ACA, which takes issue at how the fees are applied.

"ACA has pointed out on several occasions that the FCC's regulatory fee program has treated cable operators unfairly by exempting satellite TV providers from paying their fair share of the cost to support the regulatory activities of the FCC's Media Bureau," said Polka. "Although the FCC has finally begun to reduce fee burdens on cable providers," he said, "Sen. Thune's bill takes the right approach by requiring the Government Accountability Office to determine whether the current fee structure correlates to the actual workload of the FCC."

Last summer, the FCC voted to start charging satellite operators per-sub user fees, bringing it more in line with those levied on cable and telco video distributors.

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.