Public Knowledge's Feld Pans Broadband Bills

Tells Congress they endanger consumers
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Public Knowledge senior VP Harold Feld takes aim at two broadband-related bills in his prepared testimony for a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the bills Jan. 12.

The two bills, H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Act and the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act, would block the FCC's ability to use Title II authority to regulate the price of broadband access and make permanent a smaller ISP exemption from enhanced network management disclosure requirements in net neutrality rules.

In his testimony, Feld calls the Communications Act the "software of communications policy" and likens the bills to creating a poorly written line of code that can crash the network.

“The two broadband bills use incredibly broad language that endangers the ability of the FCC to protect consumers from fraudulent charges, threatens the ongoing effort to reform the Universal Service Fund to subsidize rural broadband, and potentially deprives millions of consumers of the right to know how their broadband providers make critical decisions about their broadband subscriptions," said Feld.

The FCC has been exempting smaller carriers from the enhanced reporting requirements on a temporary basis, and did so again last month in relation to its new Open Internet order. But it did not raise the threshold for the definition of small in the exemption from 100,000 subs and fewer to the 500,000 subs and fewer ISPs had sought. It also put off a decision on whether to make it permanent for a year while it awaited a decision from the Office of Management and Budget on the paperwork burdens of the new enhanced disclosure.

“In the absence of any evidence of a real problem, why would Congress risk passing open-ended bills with such potentially disastrous unintended consequences," said Feld.

Republicans on the Hill and at the Commission support making the exemption permanent and expanding it.

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