Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Application Fees – MD Docket No. 20-270

In the MD Docket No. 20-270 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released on August 26, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeks comment on a new application fee schedule with substantial changes to the application fee categories and processes covered by the fees and in the amounts of fees proposed.

The NPRM can be viewed at The deadline for reply comment to this NPRM is November 16th and the reply comments deadline is December 16th. You may submit comments for MD Docket No. 20-270 at the FCC’s website: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

The FCC indicates that part of the purpose of the NPRM is to simplify and harmonize the fee structure to more reasonably reflect the current costs of processing applications. The FCC proposes to streamline the application fee schedule by reducing eight separate fee categories to five and reducing the number of application fees within those categories while still including new fees for services that were not listed previously. Charging fees for all services is appropriate and is now required by law.

According to the Commission, the proposed approach is easier to implement and reduces  administrative burdens on applicants and the Commission by being less complicated to administer, more equitable and easier for the public to understand.

WIA appreciates the FCC’s goals of simplifying and harmonizing the fee structure by making the assessment of fees more equitable and clearer to understand. The remaining rationale and the changes proposed to achieve those goals may create some concerns for applicants and licensees in the Part 90 Land Mobile Radio Services.

There are instances where the fee changes would significantly increase the cost to most of the Part 90 applicants and licensees.  

The Commission notes that its licensing software, the Universal Licensing System (ULS), provides for the filing, review, and disposition of all types of license applications in the Wireless Radio Services, including auctioned geographic licenses and site-based licenses. The FCC charges the same fees for similar types of application processing work: site-based, personal, geographic-based, and experimental applications. 

The proposed application fees are said to be based on “estimates of the direct labor costs to process a typical application”. The Commission seeks comment on the changes to application fees and whether they reasonably reflect current costs of application processing.

The new fees do not appear to reflect the fact that there are fewer applications for Part 90 Land Mobile systems filed compared to previous years.  In addition, there are fewer Commission staff assigned to process these applications and the software currently deployed appears to make the review task more efficient. The effect of a cost increase on the marketplace may be to drive down the volume of applications from those with legitimate need for licensed Part 90 Land Mobile two-way spectrum and could lead to an increase in unauthorized operators.

The NPRM also seeks comment on charging fees for certain types of amendments to pending applications and how to structure that fee when the amendment application expands or narrows the scope of the initial request where the Commission staff may need to completely re-review the application because of new licenses, spectrum, geography, or technical issues that were not in the original application. Currently, rules charge a fee for certain types of major amendments (e.g., Part 22 Services), and specific changes for certain site-based services (e.g., adding call signs, requesting waivers). 

The table in paragraph 18 (page 8) of the NPRM lists the current fee for Part 101 Common Carrier Microwave as the basis for comparison to the proposed cost-based fees. The NPRM proposes consolidating these two separate categories into one. The current fees for Part 90 PMRS applicants are generally much lower than for Part 101 Microwave applicants. The applications for Part 90 PMRS applicants are largely less detailed and far less complex for the applicant to produce and for the Commission’s processor to evaluate. 

The proposal lists the following fees that, if instituted for Part 90 PMRS applicants, will amount to significant increases in some cases.

ServiceFCC Form No.Proposed Fee AmountCurrent Fee
1.  Site-Based Wireless Licenses   a. New; Major Modification  601 & 159    $190.00  $70.00
  b. Minor Modification    601 & 159    $50.00  $70.00
c. Special Temporary Authority  601 & 159    $135.00  $70.00
  d.  Assignment/Transfer of Control  603 & 159  $50.00  $70.00
  e.  Renewal  601 & 159    $50.00  $70.00
  e.  Rule Waiver  601, 603, 608 or 609-T & 159  $380.00  $210.00