On December 29, 2020, the FCC issued a Report and Order in MD Docket No. 20-270, in which it adopted new rules implementing the application filing fee provisions in RAY BAUM'S Act (see the previous NEBSA Update describing the FCC NPRM on EBS Filing Fees). The FCC decision can be found here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-20-184A1.pdf.
NEBSA had filed comments in the proceeding supporting the continued application fee exemption for nonprofit entities who use their own EBS licenses for the provision of educational or other noncommercial services, or who lease capacity to non-profit or governmental entities who then provide or educational or other noncommercial services.
Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), the FCC decided to adopt its original proposal for EBS, which was to eliminate the general EBS fee exemption formerly in Section 1.1116(e)(4) of the Rules. In paragraphs 56-59 of the Report and Order, the FCC noted that most existing EBS licensees are not using their licenses for dedicated delivery of educational services, but are leasing capacity to commercial operators. The Commission also noted that, pursuant to a separate statutory exemption, all EBS applications by governmental entities are exempt from filing fees in any event.
NEBSA believes that the impact of this decision on EBS licensees will be minimal. First, as noted, governmental entities still will be exempt from application filing fees pursuant to a separate general exemption in the rules. As for private entities, NEBSA believes that most EBS leases have provisions requiring these fees to be paid or reimbursed by commercial lessees and thus the fees will not have to be paid by traditional nonprofit educational entities. However, to the extent that a private non-profit ends up paying fees itself, the fees typically paid for existing licensees will be quite modest. For example, the filing fee for license renewal will be only $50, and licenses are only renewed every 10 years.
There will be some delay in these new rules becoming effective, as the FCC will have to change its forms and ULS and other filing systems to accommodate the changes. The FCC also has to provide a report to Congress on the adoption of the new fee schedule. The effective date of the new rules will be announced by publication in the Federal Register. NEBSA anticipates that this process will take many months.