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FCC Proposes to Overhaul Regulatory Fees

Agency says calculations need to keep up with industry changes

The FCC wants to revamp its entire regulatory fee system and is asking for public input on that effort.

Specifically, the agency says extensive changes have occurred in the communications marketplace since its current system for assessing and collecting regulatory fees for all of the industries it regulates was enacted in 1994.

Back then, commission regulation centered mostly on wireline local and long distance. But then the wireless industry exploded, shifting agency resources to that industry.

Commissioner Robert McDowell called the reform long overdue, adding that the agency should update its fee structure to ensure that they are levied “not only in a fiscally prudent manner, but in a nondiscriminatory and competitively neutral way.”

“Today’s currency is convergence: Telephone companies have entered the video market, cable operators are winning voice customers, satellite operators offer competitive radio, television and broadband services, and wireless providers have unleashed a mobile revolution few if any saw coming,” said new Commissioner Ajit Pai.

Pre-1998, the agency calculated regulatory fees based on employee time cards. That involved tracking time by a regulatory fee category, and fees were allocated based on a core bureaus’ relative share of employee time, both those who worked directly on an issue and those who provided support. The FCC abandoned this approach in 1999 because doing it this way resulted in unpredictable and substantial shifts in regulatory fees from year to year.

Since then, the commission calculates the fees based on what it calls Full Time Equivalent data compiled in 1998. That too, allocates fees based on the nature of employees work although the commission does update the data from year-to-year.

Comments to MD Docket 08-65 are due 30 days after Federal Register publication.