The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB or Bureau) has released an Order largely denying BT Americas’ request for review of a decision by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). BT Americas assessed federal universal service fund (USF) pass-through fees on non-telecommunications services, which it said were caused by a billing error. USAC directed the company to refund the erroneous charges to its customers, or alternatively, to include the amounts in its assessable revenues on Line 403 of a revised Form 499-A (thereby, remitting the USF contributions to USAC rather than profiting from them).

In its petition for review, BT Americas asserted that the overcharges are not prohibited by FCC rules and, in any event, are covered by contractual arrangements outside the FCC’s purview. The Bureau disagreed with both arguments, explaining that excess recovery is prohibited even if inadvertent, and that parties cannot contract around the rules governing pass-through of government fees. WCB did agree with BT Americas, however, that USAC was wrong in offering the alternative of including the non-telecommunications services in its assessable revenues. Instead, BT Americas must refund the overcharges to customers.