On Tuesday, May 4, 2021 the Commission released a Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Order” and “NPRM”) in the Assessment and Collection of Regulatory Fees for Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2021 proceeding (MD Docket No. 21-190). The Order adopts two new regulatory fee subcategories for non-geostationary orbit (“NGSO”) satellite systems, distinguishing between “less complex” NGSO systems and all other NGSO systems. The NPRM proposes the collection of $374,000,000 in regulatory fees for FY 2021, and seeks comment on the methodology for collection of regulatory fees.
Report and Order: The Commission adopted two new regulatory fee subcategories for NGSO systems to more accurately reflect the amount of Commission work required to regulate different NGSO systems. NGSO satellite systems that “plan to communicate with 20 or fewer U.S. authorized earth stations, primarily for EESS and/or AIS,” will be classified as “less complex” NGSO systems and fees will be assessed on a per NGSO space station system basis, not on a per-earth station basis. NGSO systems that do not qualify as “less complex” will be categorized as “other” NGSO satellite systems.
NPRM: The Commission proposes and seeks comment on the collection of $374,000,000 in regulatory fees for FY 2021. The Commission seeks comment on several items including the proposed end to the phase-in of DBS regulatory fees, the extended use of population-based fees for full-power broadcast television stations, and a 20/80 allocation between “less complex” and “other” NGSO satellite stations for NGSO regulatory fees.
The Commission also seeks comment on the inclusion of non-geographic numbers in the calculation of the number of subscribers for each CMRS provider. The Commission tentatively concludes that, because the usage of non-geographic numbers for purposes such as machine-to-machine calling has increased substantially, as compared to the historic use of such numbers for “follow me” services, the inclusion of non-geographic numbers is no longer duplicative of the geographic numbers. The Commission expects that this proposal will not change the total amount collected from the industry, but will likely reduce the per subscriber fee. In addition, the Commission seeks comment on the inclusion of additional categories of CMRS subscribers that should be considered in the calculation of CMRS regulatory fees to further reduce the amount per subscriber by increasing the number of units.
Finally, the NPRM seeks comment on the extension of FY 2020 COVID-19 relief mechanisms for regulatees suffering hardship to the FY 2021 regulatory fee season. As you may recall these mechanisms include, but are not limited to: waiver and deferral, reduced interest rates and down payments, and waiver of the red light rule to permit debtors experiencing financial hardship to request relief with respect to their regulatory fees.
Payment Calculations: The Order sets out proposed fee calculations (Appendix A & B), calculation dates, and payment methods and instructions. For wireless services, including CMRS cellular, mobile, and messaging services, fees must be paid for authorizations granted on or before October 1, 2020. Further, the number of subscribers, units, or telephone numbers on December 31, 2020 will be used to calculate the fee payment. The Commission proposes the rounded standard fee calculations for FY 2021 for CMRS Mobile Services at $0.15 per telephone number (subscriber), and for CMRS Messaging Services at $0.080 per telephone number (subscriber).
Comments on the NPRM are due June 3, 2021.
Reply Comments are due June 18, 2021.
The Order will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
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