FCC Proposes Per-Sub DBS Fee

The American Cable Association Tuesday was praising the FCC's decision to exempt the smallest entities, like some of ACA's members, from regulatory fees, and its proposal to start charging DBS operators a per-sub fee.

“ACA is pleased that the FCC has raised its de minimis threshold for paying regulatory fees from $10 to $500 to provide more relief to smaller entities," said ACA. 

The FCC has adopted several proposals from its June Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on changes to how it collects regulatory fees ($339,844.00 for 2014) from MVPDs, broadcasters and others.

In addition to raising the minimum fee liability threshold, the FCC also eliminated several regulatory categories—broadcast auxiliaries, satellite construction permits—all effective in 2015.

The FCC put off in a further notice the issue of whether to establish a direct broadcast satellite regulatory fee category.

The American Cable Association has long 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.

The FCC has now at least proposed doing just that.

"In this Further Notice we propose to adopt a new fee category for DBS, based on the Media Bureau FTEs [full-time employees] which perform work related to these regulatees," the FCC said. "DBS providers are similar to cable operators and IPTV providers because DBS providers offer multi-channel video programming to end-users," the FCC points out. Despite this similarity, DBS providers do not pay the per-subscriber regulatory fee assessed on cable operators and IPTV providers based on Media Bureau FTE regulation.

"We are extremely pleased that the FCC–after many years of encouragement by independent cable operators – is proposing to require Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) providers to pay regulatory fees to cover some of the Media Bureau’s costs to oversee the video services of DirecTV and DISH Network," said ACA in response.

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.