As noted in Politico, Communications Daily and TR Daily, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) wants the Federal Communications Commission to update its regulatory fee process to “reflect the current telecommunications industry,” according to a report made public this week.
“The major changes that have occurred in the telecommunications industry over the past 14 years dramatically increase the likelihood that FCC’s current division of fees among fee categories has become obsolete,” says the GAO report, which was requested by House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and the Ranking Member of the Communications Subcommittee Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.
The GAO’s observations are similar to an observation included in the FY2013 Financial Services Appropriations bill, which encouraged the FCC to update its fee methodology.
USTelecom shares GAO’s concern about the outmoded FCC fee structure, and has long advocated (see filings) the updating of these fees. (The association was one of several stakeholders GAO interviewed for its report.)
The GAO also reviewed the status of excess fees collected by the commission. In February, the commission reported that it has collected over $66 million in excess regulatory fees between FY2002 and FY2011. Because the FCC’s annual appropriation prohibits the use of excess fees without an additional appropriation by Congress, the money sits unused in an account at the Department of Treasury. GAO recommended that Congress consider how those additional funds should be used, and discussed how five other fee-funded regulatory agencies either apply excess fees as an adjustment to the subsequent year’s fees or refund them.