FCC Releases 2021 Regulatory Fee Guidance
On Friday, September 10, 2021, the FCC released three documents providing guidance on paying 2021 Regulatory Fees. First, the FCC released a Regulatory Fees Fact Sheet explaining the 2021 Regulatory Fee calculations for Commercial Wireless Services. CMRS cellular licensees, CMRS mobile service licensees, and CMRS messaging licensees (“CMRS providers”) owe regulatory fees for each license held as of October 1, 2020, even if a license expired after October 1, 2020. CMRS fees are assessed based on the number of telephone numbers, including non-geographic numbers, or subscriber counts. CMRS providers that filed a Number Resource Utilization Forecast report on FCC Form 502 were able to update subscriber counts. If a CMRS provider did not file a FCC Form 502, they should report their subscriber count or telephone number units as of December 31, 2020 for their 2021 regulatory fees. As a reminder, CMRS Cellular Radio and CMRS Mobile service fees will be calculated at $0.15 per telephone number/subscriber count and CMRS Messaging service fees will be calculated at $0.08 per subscriber count.
Second, the FCC released a Regulatory Fees Fact Sheet providing information on entities that are exempt from payment of regulatory fees. The following entities are exempt from paying regulatory fees: 1) all government entities; 2) regulates whose total FY 2021 annual regulatory fee liability, including all categories of fees for which payment is due, is $1,000 or less; 3) noncommercial educational (“NCE”) FM station and full service power television broadcast licensees; 4) peripheral NCE services; and 5) qualifying community service broadcast services. In addition, non-profit entities (exempt under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code) may be exempt from paying regulatory fees.
Third, the FCC released a Public Notice that provided procedures for filing requests for waiver, reduction, deferral, and installment payment of FY 2021 Regulatory Fees due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Commission may waive, reduce or defer payment of a regulatory fee in a specific instance if a regulatee demonstrates good cause for the relief sought and that waiver, reduction or deferral of the fee promotes the public interest. Fee relief may only be granted to regulatees that unambiguously articulate extraordinary circumstances outweighing the public interest. Late payments are generally assessed a 25% penalty and will accrue interest until paid in full.
Waiver, reduction and deferral on financial hardship grounds
A request for waiver or reduction of a FY 2021 regulatory fee based on financial hardship must be filed on or before September 24, 2021, and accompanied by (i) full payment of the FY 2021 regulatory fee or a request to defer payment, and (ii) financial documentation demonstrating the financial hardship of the regulatee. A party seeking waiver and deferral of its FY 2021 regulatory fees based on financial hardship may file a single request for both waiver and deferral. Parties must file their requests electronically by emailing their requests and supporting financial documents to [email protected]. In order to prove financial hardship sufficient to justify a waiver, a regulatee must show that it lacks sufficient funds to pay its FY 2021 regulatory fee in full while maintaining service to the public.
Waiver or reduction of fees on other grounds
Requests for waiver or reduction of FY 2021 regulatory fees on any grounds other than financial hardship must be filed by September 24, 2021, and must comply with section 1.1166 of the Commission’s rules, except regarding electronic filing. Parties must file their requests electronically by emailing their requests and supporting documents to [email protected].
Installment payment of FY 2021 regulatory fee debt
A regulatee that is financially unable to pay its FY 2021 regulatory fee debt in full before the September 24, 2021 payment deadline may request an installment payment plan by sending its request with supporting financial documentation to [email protected]. The request may be combined in a single filing with a waiver and deferral request made on financial hardship grounds. The supporting documentation must show that the regulatee cannot pay its FY 2021 fees in full by September 24, 2021. If an installment payment request is granted, the Commission will ease the payment terms it typically requires for installment payment agreements, including reducing the interest rate it typically charges to a nominal rate of interest and waiving the 10% down payment.
The Commission waives the “red light” under section 1.1910 of the Commission’s rules to the extent necessary to permit a regulatee that owes debt to the Commission to request a waiver, reduction, or permission for instalment payments of its FY 2021 regulatory fees. However, the Commission will not grant a financial hardship waiver request without satisfactory resolution of all outstanding debt owed by the regulatee to the Commission.
Fee payment generally must be received by the Commission no later than September 24, 2021, at 11:59 p.m.
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