FCC says IPTV providers should pay regulatory fees

The FCC has reached out and touched up IPTV providers for regulatory fees in its 2013 fee schedule adopted this week, even going so far as to add IPTV as a special category along with cable in the schedule.

In a 54-page report the federal agency noted that it's been considering attaching fees to IPTV since 2008 and that the most recent spate of comments it received indicated that "digital television delivered through a high-speed Internet connection, instead of by the traditional cable method," should be included in future fee schedules.

"We observed that by assessing regulatory fees on cable television systems, but not on IPTV, we may place cable providers at a competitive disadvantage," the Commission's report stated. After listening to comments, the Commission determined that "IPTV providers should be subject to the same regulatory fees as cable providers" because, among other things, IPTV providers benefit from Media Bureau regulation.

Rather than lump IPTV into the cable category--something that drew objections from AT&T (NYSE: T) in its comments--the Commission set up an expanded its target category to "cable television systems and Internet Protocol TV service providers" on which fees will be calculated on a per-subscriber basis and in "the same manner as we assess fees on cable television providers."

"We are not stating that IPTV providers are cable television providers," the report said.

While IPTV finally got caught in the regulatory net, the FCC declined to haul in satellite TV, noting that it would revisit that issue in the future.

As might be expected, the new regulations drew a mixed reaction from the American Cable Association.

ACA President-CEO Matt Polka, in a statement, hailed the IPTV inclusion as a way to "avoid distortions in the marketplace that can occur when some similar situated competitors must pay regulatory fees while others can avoid them."

On the other hand, Polka encouraged the Commission to take the next step and "require Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) providers, including Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) and DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), to pay regulatory fees on a per-subscriber basis as cable operators must."

The FCC, Polka added, "has ample authority to assess regulatory fees on DBS providers based on their Media Bureau activities and should craft a regulatory fee structure that results in all providers of multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) services paying their fair share of the FCC's costs."

For more:
- the FCC issued this report
- and the ACA issued this statement

Related articles:
Telco TV providers gaining strength according to FCC's video competition report
AT&T to FCC: don't call us a cable operator