FCC Proposes Cutting Budget, Staff

Spectrum fee proposal returns

The FCC's 2018 budget features cuts in staff and budget according to the administration's final budget, released Tuesday. 

The FCC said it was pleased to present its request for funds to repack and reimburse broadcasters, help close the digital divide, eliminate unnecessary regulations and regulatory "burdens."

The FCC is asking for $322,035,000 in budget authority from "regulatory fee offsetting collections." The FCC actually funds its own operations through collection of those fees. That is a 5.2% cut from FY2017 levels exclusive of the $16,866,992 it is getting as a one-time funding of its move to a new headquarters.

The FCC also asks for $111,150,000 for 2018 to cover auction/repack-related expenses and future auction and spectrum-related activities, down 5% from FY 2017. 

The FCC budget cuts 102 full-time employees (FTEs), from 1,550 to 1,448, a 6.6% decrease.

The FCC also cut $4 million from "travel, rent, contract services, supplies and materials, and equipment." 

As has been the case in budgets past, the administration/FCC proposes a legislative change that would allow the FCC to impose a spectrum fee on regulated entities—broadcasters, cable operators, satellite operators—as a spectrum management tool. 

Spectrum fee authority is a standard ask in Democratic and Republican administrations alike that Congress has yet to grant.

The administration/FCC also backs the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015, which requires 30 MHz of federal spectrum to be auctioned for nonfederal use by 2024 and additional government spectrum by 2027, with proceeds expected to reach $6 billion.

“Broadcast stations already pay tens of millions of dollars in regulatory fees every year," said National Association of Broadcasters EVP of communications Dennis Wharton. "Consistent with our longstanding position, NAB will strongly oppose proposed new spectrum taxes or fees on free and local broadcasting.”