FCC extends small provider exemption for some net neutrality regs

FCC extends small provider exemption for some net neutrality regs

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday evening that it was extending by a year an exemption for small Internet providers from part of its net neutrality rules approved in February.

Tuesday’s order says that Internet service providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers will remain exempt from transparency rules in the net neutrality order. Under the rules, providers must disclose more about their pricing policies and networks.

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Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the year-long extension would give the agency time to fully assess the burdens associated with the rules.

“This provides a reasonable period to assess the burden associated with the enhancements to the transparency rule, which will not be known until after the Paperwork Reduction Act process is completed,” Wheeler said in a statement. “It would be premature to end the temporary exemption until the Bureau has had sufficient time to conduct a data-driven review of the burden through the PRA process.”

Commissioner Michael O’Reilly, one of the agency’s two Republicans, criticized the use of a temporary extension in a statement.

“We all know that smaller providers never had the imaginary market power envisioned by the Commission, and they shouldn’t have to comply now or in the future with burdensome requirements that divert limited resources from broadband deployment and provide no real value to consumers,” he said.

The fate of the exemption has gotten some attention from Capitol Hill. Thirty-four Republican lawmakers sent Wheeler a letter last month arguing the exemption should be made permanent. They also said the agency should change the qualifications through which it determines who is an eligible provider.

The agency said in the order that the 100,000-subscriber threshold "remains a reasonable basis to delineate which providers are likely to be most affected by the burden of complying with the enhanced disclosure requirements."