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Boost fees, says FCC chairman

FCC Chairman Michael Powell last week asked Congress to allow the FCC to raise regulatory fees to cover an additional $18.5 million—an 8% increase—in the FCC's budget to bring it to $248.5 million for the next fiscal year.

According to Powell, Congress would not need to increase the agency's appropriation of $29.8 million (the other $200 million and change comes from fees) if it approved the fee increase. About 40% of the additional money would cover increased salaries and benefits for employees. The balance, about $11 million, would go to new computers.

In the appropriations hearing, Powell addressed a wide range of issues.

Asked whether the commission would take prompt action on Northpoint Technology's application for exclusive licenses for DBS spectrum to provide terrestrial services, Powell said he did not think the commission could make a decision on the licenses before fall at the earliest. He said the agency still needs to work through results of an independent interference report, then decide whether Northpoint has a legal right to exclusive use of the licenses or whether the spectrum must be auctioned.

"We cannot auction spectrum to satellite companies, but terrestrial companies must receive spectrum via auction," Powell said. Because Northpoint is a terrestrial company filing for a satellite application, he said, what the commission needs to do is unclear.