OMB Gets Earful on Enhanced Transparency

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is hearing it from ISPs on the new enhanced transparency rules the FCC adopted but has yet to implement as part of the Open Internet order and what they argue was the FCC's lowballing of those obligations and costs.

The Open Internet order was adopted over a year ago, but the enhanced transparency rules require OMB to sign off on any new paperwork burdens before they take effect per the Paperwork Reduction Act, which OMB has yet to do.

In comments on that paperwork review, AT&T said the FCC's estimates of the data collection requirements failed to pass the "straight-face test."

It said the FCC's analysis was slipshod and superficial and should be rejected by OMB.

For example, said AT&T, the FCC will require ISPs to measure packet loss, something they have not previously had to do.

AT&T says that would cost far more than FCC estimates and might even cost more for AT&T's compliance alone than the FCC estimated for all the transparency requirements for the entire industry. While the FCC has estimated compliance costs industrywide at $640,000, AT&T says new packet loss testing and reporting could cost it millions of dollars a year.

"Finally, the FCC has provided no serious explanation of the practical benefits to consumers of measurement and disclosure of packet loss. Packet loss, which depends on, among other things, router buffer size, is unlikely to be of any value to consumers, and attempts to reduce it could actually impair service quality. And the OIO didn’t even attempt to explain the benefits of disclosing packet loss," AT&T told OMB.

In its comments, the American Cable Association gave the FCC some props for addressing some of the paperwork burdens, including flexibility in how smaller ISPs measure packet loss but said many such burdens remain and asked OMB to alleviate those. It said the FCC should extend its current small ISP exemption beyond the current Dec. 15, 2016 expiration date.

As to the costs, ACA said that in addition to known "burdens" there will be additional ones driven by as-yet unknown circumstances—like measuring new offerings from edge providers—citing the FCC's 2010 Open Internet order transparency requirements.

The Competitive Carriers Association asked OMB to withhold approval of the rules' paperwork requirements until the FCC "sets the scope of the small provider exemption, addresses legal challenges to a recently-released public notice related to the rules, and substantively modifies its burden estimates."

CCA says the FCC has yet to give OMB a "real idea" of how much time and money it will take to comply with the additional requirements and said the FCC has to revise its estimates, which it says do not accurately reflect the financial burdens, particularly for its smaller members with limited resources, the same issue ACA is focused on.

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.