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ISPs: Don’t Send Us A Broadband Bill

WASHINGTON — Cable operators and telco Internet- service providers don’t want to start adding a line item for broadband fees to their customers’ bills.

In reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission last week, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Verizon Communications and CTIA: The Wireless Association were all in agreement on that point as they advised the FCC on the proposed changes to its fee structure.

The commission’s budget of about $350 million a year is covered almost entirely by the regulatory fees it collects from cable operators, telcos, broadcasters and satellite operators, which it proposes to apportion according to the number of employees in each bureau overseeing those.

But it has not updated how it apportions those fees since 1998, and one of the things it proposed in a notice issued in July was creating a broadband regulatory fee.

Cable operators already pay 95 cents per subscriber per year, and, not surprisingly, aren’t looking to pay any more.

The NCTA outlined the reasons in its filing:

It’s time-consuming and complex: Since no broadband bureau currently exists, there is no way to allocate the fees without a comprehensive, “complex and burdensome” review of how much each employee of the other bureaus — Media, Wired, Wireless and International — spend on broadband. “[I]t should only by undertaken if absolutely necessary,” the NCTA wrote.

It’s effectively a double payment: Seconding Verizon on this point, the NCTA said: “[B]ecause most broadband providers also provide regulated voice and video services, any employees that are involved in permissible broadband regulation will be covered by one of the core bureaus.”

It could discourage broadband adoption: The FCC’s prime directive these days is to get broadband to every nook and cranny, village and farm, and to have people pony up for it. The NCTA said a new fee could work against that goal.

John Eggerton
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.