Eshoo: FCC Should Not Regulate ISP Rates

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, says she is not for the FCC regulating the monthly rate consumers pay for Internet access—a sentiment she shares with full committee ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone—but points out that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's Title II approach to net neutrality regs foregoes rate reg provisions.

That came in her opening remarks for a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on a quartet of communications bills including H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Act, which would prevent the FCC from regulating those rates.

But she is concerned about how the legislation would impact the FCC's ability to ensure transparency about fees or address what she calls discriminatory data caps, or future practices as yet unidentified, or the special access market reforms and review of interconnection agreements. She says the bill should have no bearing on those efforts.

Pallone has similar concerns about how the bill would achieve the prohibition on rate regs.

Eshoo also has issues with the Small Business Deployment Act, which would make permanent an exemption from smaller ISPs from enhanced reporting requirements under the FCC's new Open Internet rules.

"[U]nder the guise of not unduly burdening small broadband providers, the bill would exempt companies with hundreds of millions in annual revenue from complying with the enhanced transparency requirements included in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order," she said. "This includes disclosure of promotional rates, fees, surcharges and data caps and would leave millions of consumers, particularly those in rural communities, with fewer protections than those in big cities."

The former Democratic chair of the Communications Subcommittee, Rick Boucher, honorary chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance, also agrees the FCC should not be regulating rates, but does not have similar issues with the bill as drafted.

He says the bill "offers a smart, protective measure to help continue the virtuous cycle of innovation that has fueled the Internet’s success. If enacted, his bill would turn the stated intentions of President Obama and Chairman Wheeler [not to regulate rates] into law."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.