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ACA Proposes Changes To FCC's Regulatory Fee Notification System

The American Cable Association encouraged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt several procedural reforms designed to better inform small cable operators that they must pay their annual regulatory fees online.

"The FCC needs to understand that most smaller cable operators do not have attorneys on retainer who monitor the agency's website to make sure that newly posted notices are not missed. The FCC could better inform independent operators through more traditional means of communications, such as email and an occasional letter in the mail," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "By adopting ACA's proposals, the FCC can better ensure small cable operators are getting their messages."

In 2009, the FCC decided that it will no longer mail hardcopy regulatory fee bills. After the deadline passed, the FCC recognized that a greater effort should have been made to inform licensees that they would not receive mailed hardcopy regulatory fee bills. The FCC is now seeking public comment on how to most efficiently and effectively notify licensees of this change.

Congress requires the FCC to fund its entire annual budget by collecting regulatory fees from cable operators and other communications providers under its jurisdiction. For fiscal year 2011, the FCC has requested $352.5 in budget authority from Congress, up $15 million from the previous year.

In comments submitted May 4, ACA recommended that the FCC implement the following changes designed to improve communication with small cable companies:

• Provide annual notice via email to CARS and Earth Station licensees when prebills are loaded into the FCC's Fee Filer for viewing;
• Send follow-up emails as the filing deadline approaches; and
• Mail a final hardcopy notice to CARS and Earth Station licensees, outlining how the licensee can log-in to Fee Filer and access the prebill.

ACA explained that implementing its proposals will further the public interest in two important ways: A final reminder will permit ACA members who relied on the mailed pre-bills to learn how to log-in and access the pre-bill through Fee Filer, and a final reminder will assist the FCC's efforts to recover costs by (i) ensuring timely payment of regulatory fees and (ii) decreasing the costs associated with the late collection of regulatory fees.

"With these changes, the FCC will promote the timely electronic payment of regulatory fees and decrease the FCC's costs associated with the late collection of regulatory fees," Polka explained. "We hope that the FCC will always consider ACA a partner whenever it seeks to reach out to small and medium-sized cable operators, and know that our organization is always willing to help promote the FCC's outreach to our membership."

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