On May 5, 2023, the FCC released a Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the assessment and collection of 2023 regulatory fees. For fiscal year 2023 (“FY 2023”), the FCC is required to collect $390,192,000 in regulatory fees pursuant to the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and the FY 2023 Appropriations Act. For FY 2023, the FCC has undertaken a high-level, comprehensive staff analysis of the work performed by FCC employees and is proposing to increase the allocation of full time equivalent (“FTE”) employees to the licensing bureaus by almost 19%.
Report and Order
In the Report and Order, the FCC codifies several temporary measures the FCC implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic to simplify the process for filing waiver, deferral, reduction, and installment payment requests for regulatory fees. Specifically, the FCC revises sections 1.1166 and 1.1914 as follows:
- Parties seeking multiple forms of regulatory fee relief, including installment payment of their regulatory fees, may file a single pleading in which all requested relief is included
- Parties may submit their requests electronically by email to [email protected]
- Parties seeking only installment payment relief to pay debts owed to the FCC, including regulatory fee debt, must submit such requests in writing, electronically by email to [email protected]
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), the FCC proposes and seeks comment on the collection of $390,192,000 in regulatory fees for FY 2023. Regulatory fees are allocated based upon the number of FTE employees within the core bureaus and offices and other factors reasonably related to the benefits provided to the payor of the fee. In making this calculation, the FCC proposes to allocate approximately 63 indirect FTEs from within the Office of Economics and Analysis (“OEA”), the Office of General Counsel (“OGC”), and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (“PSHSB”) as direct FTEs in a core bureau, based upon the FCC’s determination that their work has primarily involved specific regulatory fee payors in a core bureau. The FCC has also modified its allocation of indirect FTEs in the Wireline Competition Bureau who worked on non-high cost programs of the Universal Service Fund to remove broadcasters, and apportion the costs associated with these indirect FTEs among all other regulatory fee payors.
Using this calculation, the FCC has determined that that regulatees in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau utilize approximately 98 direct FTEs and are accordingly responsible for $95.36 million in regulatory fees (amounting to approximately 24.44% of all fees the FCC must collect). This is an increase of approximately $13.62 million from 2022.
The FCC also seeks comment on other measures to provide relief to regulatees, including:
- Whether to retain the other remaining temporary measures imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, other than those codified in the Report and Order, including the reduced interest rate and waiving the down payment for installment payments of regulatory fees
- Whether the FCC should make modifications to its installment payment plan program, including allowing regulatees to begin paying their regulatory fees in installments in advance of the deadline, rather than after the deadline
- Other forms of assistance
Finally, the FCC seeks comment on new regulatory fee categories and ways to improve its regulatory fee process.
For wireless services, regulatory fees must be paid for authorizations that were granted on or before October 1, 2022. The number of subscribers, units, or telephone numbers on December 31, 2021 will be used as the basis from which to calculate the fee payment. Permits or licenses transferred or assigned after October 1, 2022 are the responsibility of the holder of the license or permit as of the fee due date.
For CMRS providers, the FCC proposes to compile data from the Numbering Resource Utilization Forecast (“NRUF”) report that is based on “assigned” telephone number (“subscriber”) counts that have been adjusted for porting to net Type 0 ports. Non-geographic numbers are included in the proposed calculation of the number of subscribers of each CMRS provider as set forth in Appendix B and the CMRS regulatory fee factor is proposed in Appendix C. CMRS provider regulatory fees will be calculated and should be paid based on the inclusion of non-geographic numbers. The FCC proposes to set the rounded standard fee calculations for FY 2023 for CMRS Mobile Services at $0.16 per telephone number (subscriber), and for CMRS Messaging Services at $0.080 per telephone number (subscriber).
CMRS providers can adjust the total number of subscribers, if needed. Subscriber counts will be posted in CORES along with the carrier’s Operating Company Numbers. A carrier wishing to revise its subscriber count can do so in CORES by following the prompts. Revisions to subscriber counts should be accompanied by an explanation. The FCC will review the revised account and explanation and either approve or disapprove the request.
Comments will be due on or before June 14, 2023.
Reply Comments will be due on or before July 29, 2023.
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