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FCC Seeks Comments on How it Assesses, Collects Fees

The boon in wireless communication is prompting the new assessment and collection regulations

The boon in wireless communication is prompting the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose new rules on how it assesses and collects regulatory fees, and it is seeking comment on the proposed changes.

On Aug. 17, 2012, the FCC posted on the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM)—Procedures for Assessment and Collection of Regulatory Fees; Assessment and Collection of Regulatory Fees for Fiscal Year 2008—that says since enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, industry development and FCC regulations centered primarily on wireline local and long distance communications.

“Subsequently, however, the mobile wireless industry has grown exponentially, shifting commission resources to, among other things, the wireless industry, while the costs of implementing the 1996 Telecommunications Act decreased,” the NPRM says.

Those changes have produced corresponding shifts in the FCC’s regulatory activity and the shifts in the cost of the commission’s activities have not always been reflected in its “current regulatory fees.”

Although the FCC “has made a number of discrete changes to the regulatory fee program since 1994,” the commission has not revised the data on which its fees are based since 1998, nor has it undertaken a comprehensive analysis of all the substantive and procedural aspects of its regulatory fee program in light of the current state of the communications industry, the agency says.

In addition, FY 2008 was the last year that procedures for the assessment and collection of regulatory fees were determined, according to an FCC staffer. The latest NPRM “is a follow up” to the FY 2008 regulations, the staffer said. Therefore, the NPRM “will serve as the means” by which the FCC will seek comment on the issues related to how the commission should allocate its regulatory costs among different segments of the communications industry, according to the commission.

The FCC is proposing three goals to guide its regulatory fee policymaking; those goals are fairness, administrability and sustainability. The commission says it seeks “comment on these goals” as well as inviting comments on other aspects of the proposal.

In addition, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires “regulatory fees be derived by determining the number of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) performing certain activities.” The FCC proposes changing the way FTEs are used to calculate regulatory fees.

The FCC also wants to revise and update “current cost allocation percentages” using current FTE data derived from commission changes to FTEs, the NPRM says. The FCC says it “set out the adjustments projected to result from these updates, examine the impact of these adjustments on the categories of fee payors,” ask whether and how the commission should mitigate the impact of any substantial fee increases that would result and ask whether any other changes are necessary to ensure an equitable result.

The deadline for initial comments is Sept. 17, 2012, and for reply comments is Oct. 16, 2012.