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GOP: FCC Should Make Small Biz Waiver Permanent

Almost three dozen Republican members of Congress, including the leadership and membership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee and Small Business Committee, have called on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to make the small business exemption from the FCC's enhanced transparency rules under the new Open Internet order permanent.

The FCC granted a temporary exemption for small ISPs (100,000 subs or fewer), but the FCC sought comment on whether that was the right number, and whether the exemption should expire or be made permanent. Cable operators, led by the American Cable Association, have asked that the exemption be made permanent given the particular challenges of smaller operators in complying.

The legislators agree. "We applaud the Commission's action in granting this temporary exemption and urge you to make it permanent," they told Wheeler in a letter Nov. 19.

They took the opportunity to take aim at the new requirements in general, saying that "the enhanced transparency requirements jeopardize the ability of small Internet Service Providers to offer broadband services to our constituents..."

The transparency rule—dating from the FCC's 2010 Open Internet order, requires ISPs to publicly disclose network management practices, performance and pricing and privacy policies, among other things. The new rules require more granular data.

The FCC estimated that the new reporting requirements will take providers an additional 4.5 hours per year to respond.

ACA has said that "significantly understates the amount of time that BIAS [broadband Internet access service] providers expect to spend to effectively and accurately collect and disclose additional information about network practices, and to inform customers directly 'if their individual use of a network will trigger a network practice, based on their demand prior to the period of congestion, that is likely to have a significant impact on the end user’s use of the service,'" one of the new rules new requirements.

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.