Fifth Circuit Court Urged To Ax Challenge To FCC Subsidy Fees

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers has banded with industry and consumer advocates to press the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reject a challenge to fees on telecom services that pay for multiple Federal Communications Commission subsidy programs. In a flurry of filings, members from both sides of the aisle joined trade groups including USTelecom to argue that the FCC's reliance on the Universal Service Fund (USF)–a separately run body that oversees the collection of fees–is not only legal, but "essential" and aligned with congressional goals. Consumer-oriented groups, such as Public Knowledge and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, as well as stakeholders that include a coalition of libraries and schools that depend on FCC subsidies for high-speed connectivity, also asked the Fifth Circuit to reject petitions seeking to strike down the method for calculating fees. Seven petitioners urged the appeals court in January 2022 to overturn the USF contribution factor, the quarterly calculation of fees, in what would effectively kill the fee regime. But several lawmakers including Sens John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Reps Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) told the court on June 17 that the FCC has every right to collect the fees, even through a separately created body, the Universal Service Administrative Co. They also backed the system as good policy.

5th Circ. Urged To Ax Challenge To FCC Subsidy Fees