FCC proposes new fees for amateur radio licenses


On Wednesday, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in MD Docket 20-270 which implements portions of the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018 (or RAY BAUM’S Act), which gives the FCC statutory authority to collect application fees.  As a part of the Act, the FCC is required to switch from a fee structure mandated by Congress 20 years ago to a new cost-based system.  This change will result in some fees being reduced and in some cases, such as the Amateur Radio Service, new fees are being added.

Non-commercial/LPFM remains exempt from fees

The Act also creates a new statutory exemption of filing fees for noncommercial educational radio and television stations.  This means that LPFM, full-service NCE, as well as noncommercial translators and boosters will remain exempt from application fees as they are today.

Commercial FM and commercial FM translators

For commercial full-service FM radio services, the proposed cost for original construction permit/long-form applications is proposed to be slightly reduced while costs for minor modification applications would be slightly increased.

For commercial FM translators, the Commission is proposing a new fee of $210 to file an application for a minor modification.  In the past, there was no charge for the modification application, but there was still a charge for the license application.  The FCC proposes a $10 increase to the license to cover for commercial FM translator applications.

For commercial broadcast auctions, the FCC proposes a new $575 fee for filing the short-form application.

Proposed new fees for Amateur Radio and reduction in GMRS fees

Section 8 of the RAY BAUM’S Act does not provide any kind of statutory exemption for filing fees in the Amateur Radio Service, which, historically has had no filing fees.  Citing the costs involved in the automated processes, routine maintenance of the Commission’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) and limited instances where staff needs to be involved in the application process, the FCC is proposing an across-the-board fee of $50 for new and modified licenses in the personal radio services, which includes Amateur Radio and the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).  For GMRS, this is a reduction of the current $70 fee.  The FCC also proposes these fees for license renewals and requests for vanity call signs, the latter which had its filing fee eliminated several years ago.   The FCC is proposing to still not charge for administrative updates, such as mailing address changes on amateur or GMRS applications.  Amateur Radio will remain exempt from annual regulatory fees under Section 9 of the RAY BAUM’S Act.

Commenting on the changes

Once the NPRM is published in the Federal Register, filing deadlines for comments and reply comments will be established.  Those dates will be announced by the FCC in a separate Public Notice.  Comments will be accepted in the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System under proceeding 20-270.

A copy of the NPRM, which includes the proposed fee structures, can be found here.  REC is still evaluating the NPRM and is not prepared to take a position statement, but plans to do so in a subsequent news release.

The RAY BAUM’S Act is part of Public Law 115-141 and can be found in this PDF document starting on page 734 (Division P).   The relevant part of the law starts on Page 736, under Section 8.

8/27/20 editor’s note: Headline is rewritten to reflect that the document released by the FCC on Wednesday was the adopted NPRM.  The NPRM was adopted on August 12, 2020, but the adopted version, with Commission, granted Division editorial privilege was not released until Wednesday.  The FCC grants the division of the FCC that “owns” the NPRM (in this case, the Office of the Managing Director), the ability to make nonsubstantive changes to the adopted order.  This is called “editorial privilege”.  In some cases, the FCC will release a “circulation draft” three weeks prior to a full Commission open meeting.  That document gives a preview of what may be adopted.  During this three week period, Commissioners can propose changes and during the first two weeks of that period, major stakeholders in a particular rulemaking or decision may make “ex parte” presentations before the FCC decision making staff.  Such communications must be disclosed.  No document is official until the adopted version is released.  For MD 20-270, this happened on Wednesday.

Proposed fees in the NPRM

Noncommercial broadcast stations (including LPFM stations)

No fees.  NCE is statutorily exempt from filing and regulatory fees.

Commercial AM Radio

Application Current Fee Cost-based Fee
AM radio new construction permit (including Post-Auction Long Form Application) $4,415 $3,980
AM radio, minor modification $1,110 $1,625
AM radio, Main Studio Request $1,110 Main Studio Rule was eliminated in 2017
AM radio, new license $725 $645
AM radio, directional antenna $835 $1,260
AM Remote Control $70 Remote Control rules were changed in 1975
AM radio, license renewal $200 $325
AM radio, license assignment, long-form $1,110 $1,005
AM radio, license assignment, short-form $160 $425
AM radio, transfer of control, long-form $1,110 $1,005
AM radio, transfer of control, short-form $160 $425
AM radio, call sign $110 $170
AM radio, STA $200 $290
AM radio, ownership report $70 $85

Commercial FM Radio

Application Current Fee Cost-based Fee
FM radio new construction permit (including Post-Auction Long-Form Application) $3,975 $3,295
FM radio, minor modification $1,110 $1,265
FM radio, Main Studio Request $1,110 Main Studio Rule was eliminated in 2017.
FM radio, new license $225 $235
FM radio, directional antenna $695 $630
FM radio, license renewal $200 $325
FM radio, license assignment, long-form $1,110 $1,005
FM radio, license assignment, short-form $160 $425
FM radio, transfer of control, long-form $1,110 $1,005
FM radio, transfer of control, short-form $160 $425
FM radio, call sign $110 $170
FM radio, STA $200 $210
FM radio, petition for rulemaking $3,065 $3,180
FM radio, ownership report $70 $85

Commercial FM Translators/Boosters

Application Current Fee Cost-based Fee
FM translator new construction permit (including Post-Auction Long-Form Application) $835 $705
FM translator, minor modification None $210
FM translator, a new license $170 $180
FM translator, license renewal $70 $175
FM translator, STA $200 $170
FM translator, license assignment $160 $290
FM translator, transfer of control $160 $290
FM booster, new or major change construction permit $835 $705
FM booster, new license fee $170 $180
FM booster, STA $200 $170

Broadcast auctions

Application Current Fee Cost-based Fee
Broadcast Services Auction Short-Form Application n/a $575

Personal radio services

The FCC provides an example for GMRS but states that “several services in the category of the personal license will be subject to new fees  One such example is Amateur Radio Service licenses, which were not listed in the fee schedule in section 8 of the Act, but are now subject to fees under the broader mandate of the RAY BAUM’s Act.”) (NPRM at paragraph 25)

Type of Personal Licensing Application Current Fee for General Mobile Radio Service Cost-based Fee
The new license, modification $70 $50
Minor modification n/a $50
Special temporary authority $70 $135
Rule waiver $210 $50
Renewal $70 $50



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