With IPTV Fees Order, Cable Scores a Partial Win

WASHINGTON — Cable operators have been pushing the government to treat Internet-protocol television and satellite operators the same as MSOs when it comes to levying annual regulatory fees, and last week gained a partial victory on that front.

The Federal Communications Commission ordered IPTV providers, such as independent telcos, to start paying a per-subscriber regulatory fee in 2014, putting them in the same category with MSOs, which also pay per customer.

“By assessing regulatory fees on cable-television systems, but not on IPTV, we may place cable providers at a competitive disadvantage,” the agency observed.

Cable operators have argued that “may” was a definite “would.”

The FCC punted on whether to start charging satellite- TV providers by the subscriber rather than by the satellite license. Cable operators had hoped the regulator would create a new category of non-cable multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) that included satellite TV — thus the partial nature of the victory.

The FCC capped any fee increases for 2013 at 7.5%. It is refiguring the levies by spreading some of those assigned to the International Bureau across all payers, a move that cable operators did not applaud.

The American Cable Association, which represents small to midsized independent cable companies, was pleased with the IPTV outcome.

“Including IPTV service providers in the fee base will avoid distortions in the marketplace that can occur when some similarly situated competitors must pay regulatory fees while others can avoid them,” the trade group said.

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.