Small ISPs get a break from FCC transparency rules

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Small and medium sized Internet service providers are getting a year’s reprieve from the Federal Communications Commission. They won’t have to file reports detailing the prices, fees and data caps that apply to the services they offer to public, nor will they have to provide performance data, such as packet loss or peak usage time throughput, or information about network management policies and practices. At least not for the next year.

The requirements – transparency rule, as it’s called – were included in the FCC’s original decision back in February to impose common carrier regulations, up to a point, on broadband service. But smaller ISPs, “with 100,000 or fewer broadband connections” were given a ten month exemption. The FCC’s decision on Tuesday extended that grace period for a year. Don’t expect the exemption to be permanent, however. According to the text of the exemption order, it’s about meeting the information needs of consumers and edge providers…

Commenters critical of the enhanced transparency requirements offer no evidence that Internet customers do not have the same complaints today that they raised in the period following the 2010 rules, nor do they present evidence that customers of smaller providers are less in need of these essential informational disclosures than are customers of larger providers. It is a matter of historical record that Open Internet issues do not necessarily concern the actions of only large broadband providers. Furthermore, we agree with the commenter who stated that “[r]ural subscribers deserve the benefits of transparency no less than any others.”

By this time next year too, we should have good idea whether the FCC’s common carrier rules will withstand the appeal that’s being heard in federal court.

The 100,000 customer limit exempts nearly all the ISPs in California, except for big telephone and cable companies – the ones with a national footprint. Californian rural carriers and urban independents are smaller than that. Sonic.net, for example, is about as big as they get. They had 50,000 subs as of a couple of years ago, and I doubt they’ve double since (although if they have, good for them).