The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that it is planning to hike cable regulatory fees by 7% in fiscal-year 2006, nearly double the rate of inflation as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Under the plan, cable operators will be expected to contribute $48.5 million, or 77 cents per subscriber, compared with 72 cents for fiscal-year 2005. Congress requires the FCC to fund its operations almost entirely through regulatory fees.
The 2006 fiscal year began last October. The FCC permits cable operators to recover regulatory fees by adding them to subscriber bills.
DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp., cable’s chief satellite-TV rivals, will not pay fees on a per-subscriber basis. Instead, they are to pay about $108,000 for each satellite in service, which amounts to a few million dollars. Were the two firms cable companies, they would owe the FCC about $18 million combined.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association complained about the disparity last year.
“The fact that cable pays a disproportionately higher regulatory fee than its main competitor is simply not fair and distorts the workings of what has become a vigorously competitive marketplace,” the NCTA said.