The Federal Communications Commission in a 2-1 vote has exempted smaller internet providers from certain reporting requirements under the net neutrality rules approved under the Obama administration.
The vote means broadband providers with 250,000 or fewer subscriptions will have a five-year waiver on enhanced reporting requirements aimed at increasing internet service provider transparency.
The vote is a part of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s attempts to reverse portions of net neutrality.
Pai has already ended the agency’s probes into AT&T and Verizon data plans that critics said violated net neutrality’s principles. The chairman also dropped nine companies from a program that provides subsidized internet to low-income consumers.
“Our decision will help the country’s smaller providers — namely, those with 250,000 or fewer broadband subscribers — better serve their communities,” he said. “For I firmly believe that these ISPs should spend their limited capital building out better broadband to rural America — not hiring lawyers and accountants to fill out unnecessary paperwork demanded by Washington, D.C.”
The decision was blasted by the FCC’s lone Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, who voted against the exemption.
“In an ongoing quest to dismantle basic consumer protections for broadband services, the majority has decided to exempt billion-dollar public companies from being transparent with consumers,” she said.
Clyburn said she had previously supported a measure that would exempt internet service providers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers, but that the new measure was too generous.
Congressional Democrats also spoke out against the move.
"[B]y granting this carve out for the broadband industry, the FCC has made pricing and performance information less accessible to small businesses and consumers. Consumers deserve truth in pricing information," Sen. Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Six Democrats blast Energy Department's uranium reserve pitch Facebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens MORE (D-Mass.) said in statement.
The vote is likely a sign of things to come.
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, a Republican, said the FCC may look at abolishing the reporting requirements altogether.
“[This measure] does not address a far more important matter, whether or not these reporting requirements should exist at all.”
This story was updated at 1:09 p.m.