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."