FCC Item Would Extend Enhanced Transparency Waiver

An item is circulating among the commissioners that is said to extend the current small business waiver for enhanced transparency disclosures past the deadline for its expiration while the FCC decided what to do long-term.

The deadline for the waiver's expiration is Dec. 15.

The heads of the American Cable Association, Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association Tuesday (Dec. 13) asked the FCC to extend that small business waiver from Open Internet enhanced transparency requirements, so if the FCC commissioners vote it, they will get their wish.

There is said to be some Republican pushback on some parts of the item, including keeping the sub trigger for the waiver at 100,000 rather than bumping it up to 250,000, as Congress suggested and ACA and the others want--they would prefer 500,000, as was the case with one of the original bills, but can live with 250,000.

Compromise bills that would extend the waiver, and up the trigger to 250,000 were teed up in the House and Senate and their differences voted, but a final bill did not make it through the Senate and to the President's desk.

While the item as circulated would extend the waiver past that date, it also tentatively concludes that the waiver should not be extended for several categories of information, including rates, fees, data caps and data allowances, while asking whether there should be a permanent waiver for information on performance characteristics.

The fact that it does not tentatively include the performance characteristics should be part of that must-report info would be a victory for cable ops, since they pointed out that having to measure packet loss, for example, which they do not do regularly, would be an added expense that impacts smaller operators more than larger.

According to the groups, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have contacted FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler asking for the waiver to be extended.

"Many small providers already face significant challenges trying to compete with larger industry players and imposing additional obligations at this time would only result in unintended operational and financial burdens for these small businesses," said CCA President Steven Berry.

Actually, the enhanced transparency rules from which they are seeking a waiver do not yet apply to any carriers, large or small, despite the FCC vote to approve them a year and a half ago. That is because the Office of Management and Budget has yet to sign off on the added data collection obligations, which it must do per the Paperwork Reduction Act.

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.