FCC Republicans Vote to Extend Transparency Waiver

Five-year exemption also ups trigger to 250,000 subs or fewer
Author:
Publish date:
Federal-Communications-Commission-750.jpg

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has circulated an order waiving the FCC's Open Internet order's enhanced transparency requirements for smaller ISPs for five years and upping the trigger for that waiver to 250,000 subs or fewer.

Not only that, but he already has two votes for the item in a three-person commission, which means it has effectively been approved pending casting of the third vote.

That squares with legislation that passed in the House last week, as well as what Pai reportedly pushed for when then FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had circulated an item extending the waiver but leaving the trigger at 100,000 subs for fewer.

The waiver expired last month, when the enhanced transparency requirement kicked in for all ISPs.

"Federal regulations have a disproportionate effect on small businesses—businesses that are often the linchpin of a more competitive marketplace and that don’t necessarily have compliance resources," said Pai.  "Accordingly, I believe the FCC should be sensitive to the impact regulations can have on such businesses. I have proposed and voted in favor of this exemption in order to be faithful to that commitment, and I am pleased to report that I am not alone. My colleague Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has authorized me to say that he has done the same."

"I remain hopeful that the full Commission will adopt this bipartisan compromise swiftly. Further delay will only force the companies to divert scarce resources away from investing in rural America and toward filling out needless paperwork."

If Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn does not vote the item, Pai can schedule it for a vote at the February public meeting, which would force her vote unless she decided not to make an appearance and deny the necessary quorum.

Had there been a full commission of five members, and three votes for the item, it would eventually have been approved were the other votes not cast within a set time limit, but that is not the case with only two yes votes on an item, according to an FCC staffer familier with the rules.

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 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 order that Chairman Pai circulated today will free up scare resources that are needed to maintain and upgrade rural broadband networks," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "This is a very good thing. We hope for unanimous commission action on this encouraging step toward supporting broadband infrastructure and the opportunities it makes available.”

“I am very pleased Chairman Pai has taken such swift action to help ensure small business providers are relieved of the enhanced transparency reporting requirements," said Competitive Carriers Association President Steven K. Berry. "With significant bipartisan support in Congress, it only makes sense to grant a waiver for small businesses, and I commend the Chairman and Commissioner O’Rielly for voting in favor of the item.  The majority of CCA members are small businesses who want to focus on their customers rather than complying with unnecessary obligations, and I encourage the Commission to adopt the bipartisan compromise as soon as possible.”

"This is the first step in assuring the rights of content creators so they can invest in the programming we all enjoy," said House Communications Subcommittee Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). "It's time we let industry innovate, free from the heavy hand of big government, and deliver consumers the services they want at a price they deserve."

“The order that Chairman Pai circulated today will free up scare resources that are needed to maintain and upgrade rural broadband networks," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "This is a very good thing. We hope for unanimous commission action on this encouraging step toward supporting broadband infrastructure and the opportunities it makes available.”

Not so pleased with the item was Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

"I believe that all consumers and all businesses, no matter where they reside, should have access to the most basic and fundamental information about the broadband service for which they pay,” said Markey. “Regrettably, Chairman Pai has circulated an exemption that would allow some broadband providers to withhold basic information on services from millions of subscribers. It is unacceptable that small shops and stores will pay for broadband without knowing all the commercial terms of the service.  Rather than granting carve outs for the broadband industry, the FCC should be ensuring that all consumers have access to all the pricing and performance information they need to make informed decisions about their broadband service.”

Related