FCC Republicans Will Work Toward Waiver

Republican FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly vowed to continue working toward a small business exemption from the Open Internet Order's enhanced transparency rules that are scheduled to take effect Jan. 17.

The current exemption — itself a one-year extension granted last year — expired Dec. 15, according to sources, due to Republicans' push for a 250,000-and-fewer trigger for the waiver, met with equal vigor by Dems who wanted to keep the waiver at 100,000 subs and below.

"We worked hard to reach a consensus with our Democratic colleagues that would have prevented the exemption from lapsing," said Pai and O'Rielly in a joint statement.

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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had circulated an item that would have extended the waiver at the 100,000 figure.

"Unfortunately, those efforts did not bear fruit and now thousands of our nation’s smallest and most competitive internet service providers are worried that they will be subject to unnecessary, onerous, and ill-defined reporting obligations," they said. "This was a lost opportunity for the Commission to do the right thing. It also ignores the strong bipartisan support from the House of Representatives, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the Obama Administration’s own Small Business Administration."

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The House passed a waiver extension bill with a 250,00 trigger and the Senate Commerce Committee followed suit.

"We appreciate the willingness of two of our colleagues to negotiate in good faith on a compromise," they said — a source said Wheeler was the missing figure in that statement. "We remain committed to protecting small businesses and their customers from the higher costs and disproportionate impact that would accompany the implementation of these requirements, and we remain hopeful that a consensus exemption can still be achieved at the Commission in the months ahead in addition to reviewing the application of the overall burdens themselves," they said.

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.