Senate Small Biz Broadband Bill Gets Markup

The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a June 15 markup for the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act of 2015, a version of a House bill exempting smaller broadband providers from the enhanced transparency requirements of the FCC's open internet rules, though it would exempt more companies than the House version.

The bill, a version of which passed the House unanimously in March, extends the FCC's exemption of smaller ISPs from the enhanced transparency rules under its new Open Internet Order.

But unlike the House version of the bill, which defined small businesses as ISPs with not more than 250,000 subs (itself a change from the FCC's proposed definition of not more than 100,000), the Senate bill defines small business as not more than 500,000 subs (or 1,500 employees. The house bill also has a five-year sunset, but the Senate bill has no such sunset.

The House version that initially passed out of the Communications Subcommittee also defined small businesses as 500,000 subs or fewer and included a 1,500-employees-and-below figure as a trigger for the exemption. Smaller cable operators and Republicans backed that version, which passed out of the subcommittee, but without bipartisan support.

The final version, with the 250,000-subs trigger -- and a five-year sunset - -was a compromise between that and a Democratic proposal that would have set the cut-off at 100,000, and another amendment, never offered, with a 200,000-sub cut-off.

So, unless the Senate version gets the same compromise treatment, the House would have to re-vote any changes.

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.