OMB Approves Open Internet Enhanced Transparency Rules

According to the Office of Management and Budget, OMB has just approved the added paperwork collection obligations of the FCC's Open Internet order enhanced transparency requirements. Those are the parts of the order that require ISPs to provide more information on network performance and business plans, some of which smaller operators say are disproportionately a burden on them financial and otherwise.

The rules will go into effect Jan. 17.

That OMB approval came Dec. 15, the same day the FCC's one-year extension for the small business waiver of the enhanced transparency portion of its rules expired without an agreement on a renewal. To date, the waiver has not had any effect because the enhanced transparency rules were not in effect.

Related: Hill Pushes FCC To Extend Waiver

But OMB approval of those underlying rules (actually the approval was of the added paperwork) means that after publication in the Federal Register, which usually takes a couple of weeks, but perhaps a little more given the Holidays , the enhanced transparency rules can take effect for all ISPs, which means they would apply to smaller ISPs if the waiver is not extended by then.

In a public notice issues Friday, the FCC said: " The Commission has sent a notice to the Federal Register for publication, announcing OMB approval and an effective date of January 17, 2017, for the enhanced disclosure requirements."

Republicans take over Jan. 20, after which the waiver is expected to be extended, and to systems with 250,000 subs or fewer, which is what Republicans wanted, and Congress signaled it wanted, rather than the 100,000 cut-off in the waiver that expired Dec. 15, which Democrats are said to be holding firm on.

The reporting requirements may eventually be mooted if the FCC rolls back the Title II-based Open Internet rules, but in the interim operators have to start figuring out what they need to report and when they have to start reporting it. Apparently, everyone will have to start complying Jan. 17.

As part of the 2015 Open Internet Order, which went into effect June 12, 2015, the FCC expanded ISP obligations to inform customers about network management practices and their impact on customer's broadband service, part of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's focus on informing subs when their promised broadband speeds or service could be altered by such practices. But the FCC gave carriers with 100,000 or fewer subs a temporary exemption from the requirement and asked if it should be made permanent.

“The FCC’s decision to subject small businesses to the enhanced transparency rules purely for political reasons is inexcusable,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who supported bipartisan congressional efforts to extend the waiver.  “These small businesses are run by hardworking Americans who provide essential services and create jobs. These businesses will now be subject to an excess of new regulations due to a baseless decision by unelected bureaucrats.”

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.