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FCC Wants Input on Transparency Waiver for Small ISPs

The FCC's Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau has sought input on the FCC's decision to temporarily exempt smaller ISP's from enhanced transparency reporting requirements under new open Internet rules that went into effect June 12.

Smaller operators had sought, and were granted, the exemption, arguing that they place an undue burden on them.

Commenters have 60 days from publication of the FCC comment request in the Federal Register.

The FCC's "enhanced" transparency requirements include data on packet loss, geographic area performance, average performance over time, prices, fees, data cap allowances, network practices including application agnostic degradation of service, and more.

The exemption means smaller operators don't have to report on the  source of congestion, packet corruption, and jitter, and are not required to make their disclosures in real time.

The FCC wants info about whether the waiver, which applies to systems with 100,000 or fewer broadband subs, should be made permanent or whether it should have been granted at all, as well as whether 100,000 was the right cut-off.

The American Cable Association, which represents small and mid-sized ISPs, had sought a permanent carveout.

In the FCC's open Internet order, the commission gave the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau until December 15, 2015 to adopt an order on whether to maintain the exemption, and at what level of subscriber.

The questions the FCC wants answers to include:

1. "What is the burden of the enhanced disclosures to smaller providers as measured in financial and other resources, and how is the burden disproportionately experienced by smaller providers?

2. "To the extent that concerns remain regarding any burdens, what is the corresponding benefit to customers of smaller providers of the information contained in those disclosures? For example, to what extent are customers of exempted providers deprived of information they need to understand the services they purchase and receive, and to monitor practices that could undermine an open Internet?

3. "Are rural customers likely to be disproportionally affected by exempting smaller providers from the enhanced disclosure requirements? How should any benefits of the enhanced transparency requirements to customers of exempted providers be balanced against any public interest benefits of reducing burdens to the providers?

4. "Will the reduction of compliance burdens for smaller providers benefit consumers in the areas served by those providers by, for example, facilitating broadband deployment, lower prices, or better quality services for consumers?"

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.