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Cable Ops To FCC: DBS Needs Per-Sub Fee

The American Cable Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association continued its pitch this week to have the FCC require DBS providers to pay what ACA says is its fair share of regulatory fees.

That came in comments to the FCC, which is on the same page.

Back in September, the FCC adopted a number of changes to how it collects regulatory fees ($339,844.00 for 2014) from MVPDs, broadcasters and others. As part of that, it also adopted a further notice of proposed rulemaking, the proposal being to start charging DBS operators a per-sub fee, as it does cable operators. Satellite companies now pay a per-license fee.

“That DBS, cable operators and IPTV providers all benefit from the same Media Bureau activities but only cable and IPTV are assessed fees for MVPD regulation while their direct DBS competitors pay nothing demonstrates that the fees as currently structured fail to be competitively neutral,” ACA President Matt. Polka said in a statement accompanying the filing.

The cable ops asked the FCC to make satellite operators pay what ACA says is its fair share of regulatory fees — as has the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and to scale the fees for all regulated entities according to their ability to pay.

Cable operators asked to make the same change in 2005 but the FCC signaled no change was warranted. It sent a different signal this time around.

The FCC is now asking for reasons why it should make the change now. "To the extent parties argue the regulatory fee assessment process should be changed," it says, "they should identify the legal basis that would justify a change and explain how the benefits of the proposed change outweigh the costs of the established assessment methodology," as well as identifying an FCC proceeding or change in law that would justify a change in the assessment mechanism.

ACA and NCTA argue the FCC has ample authority to make the change under the Communications Act. As to the benefits. For one, it means that "the entire burden of financial support for Media Bureau services provided to all MVPDs solely on cable and IPTV providers and their customers."

They are suggesting two ways the FCC could bring DBS into the per-sub fold. One is to add DBS to the existing cable and IPTV fee category, just as IPTV was added to the cable cagtegory in 2013. That could be a simple, short-term solution, they said. A longer-term answer they have been proposing since 2005 is to create a new category for anyone meeting the statutory definition of an MVPD, which could include DBS, Cable, telco video, (or those linear over-the-top providers the FCC may define as MVPDS under a Media Bureau proposal).