FCC regulatory fees for FY 2019 must be paid by September 24, 2019, under an order issued by the agency earlier this week. Federal law requires the FCC to assess regulatory fees each year to cover its operating costs (thus, the agency is largely self-funding). The FCC plans to collect a total of $339 million in fees for FY 2019, representing about a 5 percent increase from FY 2018. Beyond providing the specific fees due, the order offers important guidance for entities seeking fee waivers or dealing with bankruptcy or license transfers. While most services saw only slight fee increases, the significant fee jump for certain industry sectors led Commissioner O’Rielly to push for new restraints on agency spending. As the FCC collects its regulatory fees across all regulated services, any decline in fees for one service necessarily means increased fees for others. In light of this “zero sum” game, all service providers should carefully examine the impact of the order on their business and the potential for future reforms.

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At its last open meeting in 2017, the five FCC Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Order regarding the Commission’s Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, a 20-year old initiative aimed at improving rural health care provider access to first telecommunications services and later an array of communications services, including Internet access, dark fiber, and business data services.  This item is part of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s overall initiative to close the “digital divide,” and proposes to increase the $400 million spending cap for the first time since 1997.  The NPRM also proposes to change how the FCC handles demand beyond the cap, from general proration to prioritization based on rurality or remoteness.  As such, all interested stakeholders should carefully monitor and consider participating in the rulemaking process.  Comments will be due 30 days after publication of the item in the Federal Register (which usually takes a few weeks) and reply comments will be due 60 days after publication.

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AT&T has joined the ranks of petitioners seeking to overturn the Wireline Competition Bureau’s tough stance on contributors’ late-filed USF forms.  On September 13, AT&T joined Airband Communications in seeking Commission-level review of the Bureau’s Denial Order. 

Note:  A third carrier, Airnex Communications, filed a petition for reconsideration of the Denial Order. 

AT&T asserts that the Denial Order is inconsistent with other orders granting waivers of Form 499 filing deadlines.  For good measure, AT&T also asks the FCC to act on its 5-1/2 year old petition to reverse the 1-year amendment deadline that it missed in this instance. 


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Last week, we posted an entry about the tough stance the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau is taking on late-filed Universal Service Forms submitted by contributors.  One of the parties whose USF appeal was denied, Airband Communications, has filed an application for review of the Bureau decision.  The Commission yesterday asked for comment on the request.   Comments are

In stark contrast to the Bureau’s more liberal waiver policy for recipients of Universal Service Funds, the Wireline Competition Bureau recently released orders affirming a tough stance for contributors who miss USF filing deadlines.  In the Waiver Order, the Bureau granted two waviers of the deadline to file 499-A revisions.  In the Denial Order, the