UPDATE – On November 16, 2020, NEBSA filed comments with the FCC in MD Docket No. 20-270, described below, supporting the continued application filing fee exemption for private nonprofit licensee entities who use their own EBS licenses for the provision of educational or other noncommercial services, or lease capacity of their EBS licenses to non-profit or governmental entities who then provide educational or other noncommercial services. The comments note that governmental entities would continue to be exempt from application filing fees pursuant to a separate exemption in the Communications Act and the FCC’s rules. A copy of the NEBSA comments may be found at: NEBSA Comments in Application Fee Proceeding MD 20-270.pdf
On August 26, 2020, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in MD Docket No. 20-270 proposing certain amendments to its schedule of application filing fees. The document can be found here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-20-116A1.pdf. The deadline for comments has not yet been established but is likely to be some time in October or November.
In general, the NPRM seeks to bring the FCC’s fee structure for applications into compliance with new statutory standards. The ultimate goal is to have the amount of fees for applications and other filings set at a level that recovers the FCC’s cost of processing the filing. Due to efficiencies from the advancement of technology and corresponding changes in the FCC’s procedures and rules, the FCC actually proposes to reduce the amount of certain fees. For example, proposed fees for renewal of geographic wireless licenses would be reduced from $70 to $50, assignment of license application fees would be reduced from $450 to $195, and lease application fees would be reduced form $450 to $165.
The NPRM notes that there are currently no application fees associated with EBS licenses because the FCC in 1986 included EBS in certain services that were exempt from application fees. However, in paragraph 221 of the NPRM, the FCC now notes that eligibility, educational use and leasing restrictions have been eliminated for EBS, clearing the way for commercial, non-educational use of EBS channels. In light of these changes, the FCC proposes to eliminate the general exemption for EBS applications, and it seeks comment on this proposal.
Note that the FCC’s rules already include a separate exemption for application fees related to licenses held by governmental entities (state, local and regional agencies, public schools and universities, etc.). This exemption is not proposed to be eliminated. Thus, to the extent that EBS licensees going forward are required to pay application fees, the requirement will be limited to private entities only.NEBSA plans to file comments in the proceeding on behalf of the EBS community. It’s position on the issues will be formulated by its Regulatory Committee and approved by its Board of Directors. Subject to consideration by the Committee and the Board, NEBSA probably will support the continued exemption for EBS licenses that are held by nonprofit educational entities and used exclusively for educational purposes.