Compliance Alert -- FCC Sets Regulatory Fees for 2009

As it does annually at this time, the FCC established its regulatory fee assessment methodology for 2009. For the past few years, Congress has mandated that the FCC recover the majority of its $350 million plus budget from companies within the FCC’s jurisdiction via the regulatory fee.

In the Order, the FCC established a regulatory fee for telecommunications carriers of $0.00342 per dollar of interstate and international end user revenues. This is a slight increase over the factor from a year ago. Assessable revenues are determined by a carrier’s 2009 Form 499-A, which was filed in April. Regulatory fee payments are due by the end of September and are subject to a 25% late payment penalty if not paid on time. Carriers can find payment information here.

One aspect of the Regulatory Fee Order bears emphasis. The FCC estimates that it will collect $160 million from telecommunications carriers via this fee. That is 47% of the $342 million the FCC expects to collect in regulatory fees, and is, by far, the single largest category of contributions via the fee. This seems disproportionate in view of the many other activities of the Commission. In future years, telecom carriers should study the FCC’s calculations more closely and perhaps seek modifications that more fairly reflect the level of regulatory activity associated with telecom services.

Finally, the FCC has a de minimis threshold for collection of the regulatory fee, but the $10 threshold is far too low. By contrast, the de minimis threshold for federal universal service fund contributions is $10,000. Small carriers, especially those that are de minimis for USF purposes, should consider arguing for a higher threshold in future years.