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Wireless Providers Should Pay Fees For FCC Wireline Competition Bureau Activities

Independent Cable Says FCC Has Legal Authority To Adopt More Equitable Regulatory Fee System

PITTSBURGH, November 10, 2015 - The American Cable Association urged the Federal Communications Commission to require that wireless providers pay their fair share for work performed by the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB).  The Bureau currently assesses fees on wireline providers included in the category of Interstate Telecommunications Service Providers (ITSPs).  However, for more than a decade, the Bureau has increasingly undertaken work for wireless providers.  As a result, ACA submitted that all providers - wireline and wireless - that benefit from the Bureau's activities should be assessed fees in a fair and equitable and competitively neutral manner.  Moreover, the FCC can adopt these reforms consistent with the statute.

"ACA believes that regulatory fees that support the WCB's work should be assessed in a fair and equitable and competitive neutral manner.  So far, wireline voice providers have shouldered this burden and have been the sole providers assessed fees, but that does not reflect the Bureau's work.  Today, Bureau employees are engaging in identifiable activities involving and benefitting wireless providers, and therefore these providers need to pay their fair share.  That is what the statute requires." ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

In comments filed with the FCC on Nov. 9, ACA said that convergence within the telecommunications sector means that wireless and wireline service providers benefit from certain rules, such as universal service, implemented by WCB full-time equivalents (FTEs), underscoring the need for a more competitively neutral collection of regulatory fees to support the regulatory activities of the WCB.

ACA said it, therefore, supported the proposals of the Independent Telephone & Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA) either to add wireless voice services to the ITSP category or to re-assign Bureau FTEs for regulatory fee purposes.  It also noted that there are other methods that the FCC can opt that would achieve the same result. 

ACA pointed out that perhaps the most obvious activity - Lifeline reform and compliance - is a regulatory realm where wireless providers receive the lion's share of universal service support and where the WCB conducts substantial oversight to protect against waste, fraud, and abuse.

Wireless providers also participate extensively in the other universal service programs overseen by the WCB. For instance, while the amount of traditional high-cost support accessed by wireless providers is declining, significant support is still being provided, and wireless providers are filing numerous ex partes and reports on accessing support.

Other WCB issues where wireless provides remain active include Connect America Fund Phase II support, the e-rate program for schools and libraries, and pole attachment fees and policies.

"There is more than sufficient evidence to indicate that WCB FTEs are engaged in extensive activities dealing with and benefitting wireless providers, which should trigger the proposed reallocation of these activities and related fees or other proposals that would achieve a similar outcome," Polka said.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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