Small Broadband Providers Relieved from Net Neutrality Reporting Obligations

February 23, 2017, marked new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s second official Open Meeting, and he led the Commission through a long list of important items for a vote. One of the approved items, with a vote of 2-1, exempts providers with fewer than 250,000 broadband subscribers from complying with the Open Internet Order‘s enhanced transparency reporting obligations for five years.

Until last December, providers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers were exempt from the enhanced transparency reporting requirements. The original exemption expired during the Obama-to-Trump administration changeover, and for a few weeks those small providers were technically obligated to comply with the rules. However, Chairman Pai made clear early on that he would not enforce the rules and would act swiftly to reinstate the exemption (See JSI’s December 19, 2016, e-Lert).

According to Chairman Pai, the “unnecessary, onerous, and ill-defined” enhanced transparency reporting requirements would have fallen on the smallest ISPs and imposed significant costs in absence of an exemption. Pai even took the exemption further with yesterday’s vote by extending it to cover all broadband providers with less than 250,000 subscribers. Pai stated that the five-year exemption “will help the country’s smallest providersu2026better serve their communities.” Commissioner Mignon Clyburn dissented and argued that exemption “represents yet another in a series of steps being taken to jettison pro-consumer initiatives.” She noted that she had supported the exemption for small providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers and sought compromise on the Order.

Small broadband providers are still required to comply with the original transparency and disclosure of network management practices rules adopted in 2010. Broadband providers must clearly disclose details about their networks, performance and commercial terms; and these disclosures should be on providers’ websites and materials given to customers at the time of sale.

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