On August 26, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) proposed a new license application fee schedule, including new application fee categories, such as fees for U.S. market access and foreign ownership petitions for declaratory ruling. While the changes in many industries are modest, the downward adjustments to fees for satellite services are considerable and may potentially have a significant impact on the industry, including especially the nascent smallsat community.

Historically, the FCC has had limited authority to amend its fee schedule, which was established by statute and amended biannually. As part of the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018, Congress revised the FCC’s application fee authority, empowering the Commission to adopt an application fee schedule to recover the costs of processing applications and, among other things, add new application fee categories.

On August 26, 2020, the FCC proposed a new fee schedule for a broad set of application fees. The changes include consolidating application fees for licenses for wireless services, consolidating and eliminating application fees for some Media Bureau licenses, establishing new fees for some Wireline Competition Bureau applications, consolidating some application fees for space stations and earth stations, and proposing new application fees for some international services. The FCC is seeking comment on the proposed fees and its estimation of the costs associated with processing the applications for each of these licenses or services. Below are a few noteworthy changes.

Satellites and earth stations

The proposed fee schedule includes substantially lower satellite-related application fees.

  • Fees for applications for geostationary orbit satellites (“GSOs”) will decrease from roughly $137,000 to $4,000.
  • Fees for and non-geostationary orbit satellites (“NGSOs”) will drop from approximately $472,000 to $15,000.
  • Fees for applications under the new streamlined small satellite process will decrease from $30,000 to approximately $2,000.
  • The fee schedule also incorporates new fees for foreign satellite operators requesting U.S. market access, comparable to the fees specified above for U.S. licensees.

FM translators and boosters

The Commission plans several changes to fees associated with FM translators and FM boosters, including adding a new fee for minor modifications to FM translators. In addition to seeking comment on the appropriateness of the proposed fees, the FCC is also asking for input on whether the proposed fees should be consolidated or streamlined.

Broadcast services auction short form fees

The FCC added a new $575 fee for broadcast services auction short form applications and also seeks comment on the impact of the new fee on competition and the potential of consolidating the fee with the long form application fee.

Foreign ownership petitions for declaratory ruling

The FCC proposes to adopt a fee of $2,485 for petitions for declaratory ruling seeking approval to exceed the foreign ownership benchmarks set out in Section 310(b) of the Communications Act and a fee of $335 for associated waiver requests involving those rules. Currently there are no associated fees.

Next steps

Comments are due thirty days after the publication of the proposed fees in the Federal Register.