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Smaller ISPs: Enhanced Transparency Exemption Should Be Permanent

Smaller ISPs represented by the American Cable Association and Competitive Carriers Association have asked the FCC to make permanent its decision to temporarily exempt smaller ISPs from enhanced transparency requirements under new Open Internet rules.

As part of the new 2015 Open Internet Order, which went into effect June 12, 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.

According to an ex parte filing with the FCC, CCA told the commission that financial and other "arduous" burdens necessitated a permanent exemption. “Small providers care about their communities and customers and there have been no failures to disclose information to consumers that would justify enhanced regulations," said CCA president Steven Berry. "Additional transparency requirements would be particularly burdensome for many of CCA’s smaller members, who operate with limited financial and administrative resources.  Competitive carriers already face an uphill battle competing with the largest two national carriers and additional unnecessary requirements will only harm their ability to compete.”

ACA seconded that in reply comments filed this week.

"ACA believes it has presented the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau with a compelling case for making the exemption permanent," said ACA president Matt Polka in a statement. "Most importantly, the record demonstrates unequivocally that the costs for smaller providers far outweigh any benefits for users having access to the additional information. In fact, there is no evidence in the record to the contrary."

"Because smaller providers are highly responsive to their customers," said ACA in its filing, "the benefits from application of these requirements for their users are not significant."

The FCC also asked whether 100,000 was the right number, or whether it should be less. ACA said lowering the threshold would be unacceptable.

ACA also pointed out that no commenters objected to making the exemption permanent.

Agencies are required to take into account the impact of any new regulations on small businesses.

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.