Small Web providers ask for net neutrality exemption

Some of the nation’s smallest Internet service companies want regulators to give them special treatment under new net neutrality rules.

Two-dozen companies with fewer than 1,000 subscribers each on Tuesday told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they pose no threat to the openness of the Internet and should not be subjected to the “onerous” and “harmful” rules.

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“The regulatory burdens of your proposed approach will be substantial and tangible,” the groups told the FCC.

After the rules are issued, the small companies “would immediately need to take crash courses” to understand their new requirements, which “will badly strain our limited resources,” they added.

Like small- and medium-sized Web providers, the group of companies is pushing for some exemption in the FCC’s new rules so that they are not subject to the same provisions as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other giants.

Enacting “common carrier” net neutrality rules — which would allow the FCC to use the same authority for Web companies as it does for phone services — would be a substantial burden, they say, and might end up driving them out of business.

At the same time, they “have no reason to block broadband traffic or discriminate” among services, and also lack the market power to bully websites like Netflix or Hulu into paying more money for faster speeds — all concerns that have prompted regulators to write net neutrality rules.

“These [Internet service providers] seeking to obtain FCC forbearance obviously pose no threat to the open Internet, and the FCC should recognize that and provide appropriate relief,” Matthew Polka, the head of the American Cable Association — a trade group of smaller Web companies — said in a statement.

Polka’s group has repeatedly feared that tough rules would hurt small companies. In an interview with The Washington Post this week, he hinted that it may join the group of companies planning to sue over the rules.