FCC announces plans to re-examine regulatory fees

The Federal Communications Commission announced plans to re-examine its regulatory fee structure, citing the "rapid transformation" the telecommunication industry has undergone since 1994, when the FCC first began collecting assessments.

Mandated by Congress, the FCC's regulatory fees are collected to offset the agency's costs associated with industry enforcement, policy writing, rulemaking, among other administrative functions.

In a May 4 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 12-48), the five-member independent regulatory agency announced it will address a bevy of issues related to regulatory fees in separate proceedings.

The 68-page NPRM indicates the FCC will undertake changes to its assessment processes in two phases. Phase I will consider allocation percentages of core bureaus involved in regulatory fee activity and how the shares are derived. Phase II will address "other outstanding substantive and procedural issues," according to the rulemaking notice. 

"Given the breadth and complexity of the issues involved, the issuance of two separate Notices of Proposed Rulemakings will permit more orderly and consistent analysis of the issues and facilitate their timely resolution," the NPRM reads. "We will issue a report and order finalizing our decision on all the issues raised in the Reform Proceedings, including new cost allocations and revised regulatory fees in sufficient time to allow for their implementation in FY 2013."

For fiscal year 2012, FCC has proposed collecting roughly $339.8 million in regulatory fees, during a September filing window.  

For the calculation of FY 2012 fees, the FCC seeks, among other proposals, to maintain the Interstate Telecommunications Service Provider (ITSP) fee rate at the FY 2011 level of $0.00375 per revenue dollar.

"This fee reflects the Commission's decision to limit the increase in ITSP regulatory fees given the continuing decrease in the revenue base upon which ITSP regulatory fees are calculated," the notice reads, noting that last year, the commission announced it would rebalance ITSP regulatory fees "in the context of more fundamental regulatory fee reform" that the commission will address in future rulemaking.

The commission, in its May 4 notice, also said it is seeking general comment on improving its payment collection procedures and processes, and requiring wider use of its online filing system.

"In FY 2012, the commission will continue to promote greater use of technology (and less use of paper) in improving our regulatory fee notification and collection process," the notice reads.

Comments to MB Docket 12-116 are due to the FCC by May 31, and reply comments by June 7, 2012.

Regulatory fee payments for wireline (common carrier) services, including audio-bridging services, must be made for FCC authorizations granted on or before Oct. 1, 2011.

The commission said it determined unit fees by allocating the total amount of regulatory fees outlined in the FCC's Annual Appropriations Act across the agency's fee categories and then dividing the allocated amounts by the number of estimated payment units in each fee category.

In its NPRM, the commission said it estimated the number of payment units using licensee databases, industry and trade-group projections, as well as prior-year payment information. 

For more:
- see the FCC Rulemaking Notice

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