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GAO Report Questions U/V Regulatory Fee Disparity

I've been questioning the FCC's regulatory fees for broadcast TV licenses since the start of the DTV transition. VHF stations pay more--much more--than stations transmitting on UHF channels in regulatory fees even though, as the incentive auction legislation has shown, the UHF channels are more valuable.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recognized this in its recent Report to Congressional Requesters – Federal Communications Commission Regulatory Fee Process Needs to Be Updated.The Report criticizes the FCC for not updating regulatory fees as industries changed.

It states: “According to FCC's estimates, measures of some industries grew by over 50 percent--including the wireless telephone industry, for which the number of subscribers grew by over 400 percent--while measures of other industries declined by over 40 percent, including VHF television stations, for which the number of stations declined by 48 percent.

It continues: “[The] FCC's Office of the Managing Director has published some information that further suggests that FCC is basing its division of regulatory fees among fee categories on data that do not correlate with industry trends and FCC's current workload.”

The FCC is inviting comments on the Report. Monday the FCC released Public Notice DA 12-1527 titled “Office of Managing Director Seeks Comment on Government Accountability Office Regulatory Fees Reform Report and Extends Reply Comment Deadline for Regulatory Fees Reform Rulemaking."

Comments on the GAO Report are due Oct 9, 2012 with an Oct. 23, 3012 reply comment deadline. The Public Notice notes that “This extension aligns the reply comment deadlines in response to both items so that interested parties have the opportunity to concurrently examine and comment on the intertwined issues in these items.”