Hill Pushes FCC to Extend Transparency Waiver

A bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators has asked FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to extend the waiver the FCC granted to smaller cable operators last year from the enhanced transparency requirements in the FCC's Open Internet Order.

Those smaller operators have argued that the reporting—on network performance particularly—are an undue burden. The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau granted the waiver last year for systems under 100,000 subs and there were bills in the House and Senate to do the same, while upping the sub trigger to 250,000. But the bills did not make it into law, and the waiver expires Dec. 15 unless the FCC takes action.

The legislators—including incoming House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—urged the chairman to extend the waiver.

"Without commission action, small businesses soon face regulatory uncertainty and will potentially be subject to burdensome requirements," they wrote.

"Before the current extension expires, the Commission should extend the enhanced transparency exemption and begin the process of considering whether the definition of small business entities to which the exemption applies should be modified [i.e. expanded to match Congress' 250,000 or perhaps another figure]."

According to multiple sources, Wheeler has circulated an item extending the waiver, accompanied by a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on what information collection it should waive and what it should not.

Actually, the enhanced transparency requirements of the Open Internet order do not yet apply to any broadband providers, large or small, since the Office of Management and Budget has yet to sign off on the added paperwork collection requirements per the Paperwork Reduction Act.

But when it does, the new enhanced reporting would kick in if the waiver had not been extended.

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.