Small Cable Ops Seek Fee ‘Fairness’

Small Cable Ops Seek Fee ‘Fairness’

WASHINGTON — Small cable operators want the Federal Communications Commission to require satellite-TV providers Dish Network and DirecTV to pay the same 95-cents-per-subscriber agency regulatory fee that operators do, and to adopt a sliding scale for fees based on their ability to pay.

The key to unlocking those changes was the FCC’s determination that fairness would be one of the explicit goals of its approach to the revised fee structure, issued last July.

The FCC is revamping its fees to better reflect how the work of its employees is divided — or increasingly not divided — across a merging and increasingly interrelated media industry.

For example, a Media Bureau employee’s work on incentive auctions has implications on the broadcast, cable and wireless businesses.

While larger operators represented by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association are focused on issues like potential new fees based on broadband service, smaller, independent operators are focused on regulatory parity with their satellite competitors, as well as those larger MVPDs.

In reply comments to the FCC, the American Cable Association (the lobby group for smaller MSOs) pointed out that satellite operators pay no per-subscriber fees for providing essentially the same services as its members, who pay millions of dollars in subscriber fees to the Media Bureau. Instead, satellite-TV providers’ payments are based on facilities.

“The FCC must reform its fee categories so all multichannel video-programming distributors (MVPDs), including [satellite-TV] operators, pay their fair share of the costs associated with the Media Bureau’s activities in regulating MVPD services,” ACA president Matt Polka said in making the filing.

Satellite operators counter that they already pay plenty in per-satellite regulatory fees — $132,875 for a geostationary satellite orbit network and $142,150 for nongeostationary satellites — and that most of the cost is in the FCC’s initial licensing of a satellite, when companies are paying “substantial” application fees covering those costs.

The Satellite Industry Association said that if the FCC wants “fairness,” it needs to provide more information on how many full-time employees in the satellite division are involved in activities for which fees are payable, rather than the pre-licensing activity covered by processing fees.

F for Fairness

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission appears to be on the same page as the American Cable Association when it comes to the issue of evening out the regulatory burden. The following was one of the proposed goals for guiding its changes to the fees it charges to regulated entities:

“Allocation of regulatory fee burdens among regulatees should be fair. All regulatees interact with and benefit from the work of the commission, but not in equal measure. Similarly, regulatees’ ability to pay varies with their size and revenues. Imposing the same fee on a Fortune 500 company and a local family business would have very different effects on those entities.”

Source: FCC’s July 17 notice of proposed rulemaking on regulatory fees