In comments to the FCC, the American Cable Association (ACA) joined the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) in urging the FCC to subject the DBS  industry to the same regulatory fees that are paid by cable companies. The associations claim that  direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers DISH Network and DirecTV benefit from FCC Media Bureau  oversight while cable operators are required to support that oversight with the payment of annual  regulatory fees.

NCTA and ACA voiced these arguments in joint comments responding to an FCC rulemaking proposal that  considers extending to the DBS industry per- subscriber regulatory fees imposed on providers of  cable and Internet protocol television (IPTV) services.  As satellite network operators, DISH and  DirecTV are assessed annual per-license regulatory fees by the FCC’s International Bureau but pay  no fees to support oversight of broadcast retransmission and related activities by the agency’s  Media Bureau. Signaling that a change in the current fee structure may be warranted, the FCC has  asked affected parties to “identify the legal basis that would justify a change and explain how the  benefits of the proposed change outweigh the costs of the established assessment methodology.”

Asserting that the 1934 Communications Act, as amended, vests the FCC with ample authority to  change the current regulatory fee structure, ACA and NCTA suggested that the FCC establish a new  multichannel video program distributor (MVPD) fee category that encompasses cable, DBS and IPTV  providers and that assesses fees on a per-subscriber basis. If the FCC declines to adopt the  recommended MVDP fee classification, ACA and NCTA said the FCC should at least consider adding DBS  to the existing cable fee category in the same way IPTV providers were added to that category a  year ago.

In a press statement, ACA President Matt Polka lamented that FCC regulatory fees “as currently  structured fail to be competitively neutral” and also “[fail] to be technologically neutral by  favoring providers choosing satellite technology, who pay no fees for MVPD regulation, over the  terrestrial technology used by cable and IPTV providers who must pay fees for MVPD regulatory  support.” However, in a joint FCC submission, DirecTV and DISH pointed out that cable “is the  dominant (and growing) provider of broadband services and is thus subject to a panoply of  regulation that does not apply to DBS.”  As such, DISH and DirecTV proclaimed that the FCC “cannot lawfully require DBS operators to pay regulatory fees along the lines of those paid by cable."