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NAB's Gordon Smith Urges FCC To Reverse User Fee Hike

Gordon Smith during the 2019 NAB Show
(Image credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video, Kevin Jones, Adam Shane, Lisa Staszewski and Timm Andrews)

Broadcasters are working hard to try to get the FCC to reverse course on its plans to increase their user fees, in part to pay for the better broadband maps Congress has demanded of the commission.

The FCC pays for its operations through user fees--as well as auction proceeds when it comes to covering the expenses of conducting those.

National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith last week was on a phone conference with acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel to talk about the special appropriation of $33 million for the FCC to implement the Broadband Data Act, legislation that Smith and other NAB executives on the call said provided "no benefit whatsoever to broadcasters."

They said that despite that, broadcasters would wind up fronting about 16% of what were costs unrelated to their operations. The FCC fees are based on how many full-time employees are used to regulate a particular service.

Also Read: Broadcasters Tell FCC Not to Charge Them for Broadband Maps

NAB has told the FCC that not only is making them pay some of the broadband mapping freight unfair, but that it violates statute, a point they reiterated last week, saying that passing along costs attributable to broadband does not square with the requirement that the FCC take into account factors related to which entities benefit from broadband mapping. "Had it done so," they said, "the Commission would have no doubt concluded that broadcasters – and more specifically the Media Bureau – are not involved in implementing the act."

They invoked the pandemic, including the rise of the Delta variant, as reason that the increase would be hard to absorb, increases they can't pass along to their audience--as say, could ISPs via their monthly bills.

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.