The FCC has released its annual Report and Order showing the regulatory fees due for the 2020 fiscal year. Fees must be paid by 11:59 pm Eastern time on September 25, although the FCC's Fee Filer is accepting fee payments now. As in past years, the FCC will not be mailing out any notices of fees due. It is up to each licensee, permittee, cable operator, telecom or VoIP provider, or other regulatee to log in to Fee Filer and ensure that these fees are timely paid.

Fees paid even one day late will be subject to a 25 percent penalty plus administrative processing charges, so timely payment is critical. Parties that fail to pay their regulatory fees in full will not be able to obtain FCC action on any subsequently filed applications or receive disbursements from the federal universal service programs such as E-rate, pursuant to the Commission's "red light" policy until all fees and penalties are paid.

Regulatory fees can only be paid by wire, online ACH payment, debit card (Visa/MasterCard), or online credit card, and all payers will need both an FCC Registration Number (FRN) and a completed "Fee Filer Form" 159-E prior to filing. The FCC no longer accepts checks or paper filings. Also, credit card payments are limited to $24,999.99, although debit card payments have no limit.

For most services, fees are based on FCC licenses and permits held as of October 1, 2019 (the first day of the FCC's 2020 fiscal year), although cable TV rates are based on the number of basic subscribers as of "a typical day in the last full week" of December 2019, rather than on a subscriber count as of December 31, 2019, which is applicable to DBS and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) providers. The interstate telecommunications service provider/VoIP fees are based on the 2019 revenues reported on the entity's 2020 FCC Form 499-A. Noncommercial stations and all nonprofit entities are exempt from paying regulatory fees.

For TV stations, the FCC has completed its transition from a DMA-based to a population-based method for calculating broadcast television regulatory fees, charging .78 of one cent ($.007837) for each person within a station's projected noise-limited service contour.

This year, the FCC is again increasing the regulatory fee for DBS providers from 60 cents to 72 cents per subscriber and also increasing the cable TV rate from 86 cents to 89 cents per subscriber. The larger increase for DBS is intended to be part of its multi-year effort beginning in 2015 to bring DBS rates closer to parity with cable TV and IPTV rates. The FCC maintains its existing bulk rate calculation for multiple dwelling unit subscribers.

The FCC is keeping the de minimis threshold for regulatory fees at $1000, meaning that any person or entity that owes $1,000 or less is exempt from having to pay regulatory fees. As has been the case for several years now, broadcast auxiliary licenses are also exempt from regulatory fees.

Although a summary of fees is shown below, the FCC website contains links to more information about the fees owed, including fees for services not mentioned below. Due to the ongoing economic effects of COVID-19, relief or deferral of regulatory fee payment may be available. If you are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, please contact us about the possibility of seeking a fee waiver or deferral on your behalf.

Broadcast Services

AM and FM Radio


Population Served

AM Class A

AM Class B

AM Class C

AM Class D

FM Classes A, B1 &C3

FM Classes B, C, C0, C1 & C2

<=25,000 $975 $700 $610 $670 $1,075 $1,225
25,001 - 75,000 $1,475 $1,050 $915 $1,000 $1,625 $1,850
75,001 - 150,000 $2,200 $1,575 $1,375 $1,500 $2,425 $2,750
150,001 - 500,000 $3,300 $2,375 $2,050 $2,275 $3,625 $4,150
500,001 - 1,200,000 $4,925 $3,550 $3,075 $3,400 $5,450 $6,200
1,200,001 - 3,000,000 $7,400 $5,325 $4,625 $5,100 $8,175 $9,300
3,000,001 - 6,000,000 $11,100 $7,975 $6,950 $7,625 $12,250 $13,950
>6,000,000 $16,675 $11,975 $10,425 $11,450 $18,375 $20,925

AM Construction Permits $610
FM Construction Permits $1,075

Digital Television, VHF, and UHF Commercial

The FCC is calculating FY 2020 regulatory fees using a population-based fee for each full-power broadcast television station, including each satellite station. See here at pgs. 57-102.

Fee Category

 Annual Regulatory Fee

Digital TV (47 CFR part 73) VHF and UHF Commercial
Construction Permits $4,950
LPTV, Class A, TV/FM Translators & Boosters $315 per license (2019 = $345)
Broadband Radio (MDS/MMDS) & LMDS $560 per call sign (2019 = $690)

MVPD Services

Cable Television Systems (including IPTV) 89¢ per subscriber (2019 = 86¢)
Cable Antenna Relay Service (CARS) $1,300 (2019 = $1,225)
Direct Broadcast Service (DBS) 72¢ per subscriber (2019 = 60¢)

Wireless Services

CMRS Mobile/Cellular Services 17¢ per unit (2019 = 19¢)
CMRS Messaging Services 8¢ per unit (unchanged)
Microwave (includes Domestic Public Fixed Radio)

Microwave licensees must pay a $25 annual regulatory fee per year, payable for an entire 10-year license term at the time of application for a new, renewal or reinstatement license. The total regulatory fee due is $250 for the 10-year license term. (unchanged)

Telecommunications Service Providers

Interstate Telecommunications Services $0.00321 per revenue dollar
  (Based on revenue reported on 499-A)
  (2019 = $0.00317 per revenue dollar)

These fees are assessed on interconnected VoIP services, as well as traditional services such as local exchange, interexchange (long distance) and resold services.

International Services

Earth Stations $560 (2019 = $425)


This article was originally featured as a communications advisory on on August 10, 2020. Our editors have chosen to feature this article here for its coinciding subject matter.