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Broadcasters Want Big Tech to Pay

Why This Matters: The NAB wants the big tech companies that flood the FCC with filings to pay the fees that fund its work, as broadcasters and pay TV providers do.

Big tech is taking on the virtual chin lately as Washington policymakers get wise to the sector’s size and power. The latest shot at Silicon Valley is coming from broadcasters looking to hit those “regulatory free riders” in the pocketbook.

The FCC is having to rethink the process of collecting fees from the folks it regulates due to some reforms in the RAY BAUMS Act legislation reauthorizing the agency, most specifically the one that removed the designation of FCC “licensees” as those who must pay those levies.

The FCC charges a fee based loosely on how many agency employees it takes to regulate various services. For TV and radio stations, the size of the fee is based on the market and can run into the tens of thousands of dollars each year. The FCC supports its ongoing operations through those fees.

One thing broadcasters want is to start charging Google, Facebook and Amazon for participating in or generating FCC proceedings. The agency has levied those fees on broadcasters and pay TV providers for years.

Now that Congress has opened the door to expanding the pool of contributors, the National Association of Broadcasters has pitched the FCC on including “a large group of often well-funded entities that participate actively in commission proceedings, generate significant work for commission staff, and profit from commission activity without contributing regulatory fees to support that activity.”

That group should include computer companies — like Microsoft — that are pushing the FCC in filings and comments to free up more TV spectrum for unlicensed wireless, the NAB said.

The trade group wants to know why broadcasters should have to pay for FCC staffers to conduct that edge-generated work. But NAB is thinking bigger than just the white spaces proceeding.

The NAB said tech companies have generated thousands of filings without having to pay a cent for the hours FCC employees spend on them.