netneutralitySmaller broadband providers will not face new reporting requirements as a result of the Open Internet order adopted in late February – at least not immediately and possibly not longer-term. On a briefing with reporters about the order, released today, a senior FCC official said the temporary exemption applies to broadband providers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers.

The FCC’s Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau will make a decision in December whether to make the exemption permanent and if so, will decide whether the cutoff point should be 100,000 subscribers or some other number, the official said.

Also on today’s call, FCC officials sidestepped several hotly debated questions about the impact of the new Open Internet Order. (More on that later in this post.)

Open Internet Order Reporting Requirements
The Open Internet Order re-imposes Net Neutrality guidelines that were struck down by an appeals court a year ago. The appeals court argued that the FCC did not have the authority to impose the original rules. To establish its authority the FCC in the new order re-classified broadband Internet access as a Title II service.

When it struck down certain Net Neutrality rules, the appeals court upheld transparency reporting rules that were in effect at that time –and on today’s call FCC officials said smaller broadband providers will be required to continue to comply with those requirements.

New transparency requirements imposed in the Open Internet Order will be in effect for larger service providers after a review by the Office of Management and Budget. Those rules require larger broadband providers to:

  • Disclose promotional rates, all fees and/or surcharges and all data caps and allowances
  • Add packet loss as a measure of network performance that must be disclosed
  • Notify consumers when a “network practice” is likely to significantly affect their use of the service

In the 400-page order, the FCC said the small provider exemption was made in response to concerns of the American Cable Association and other entities that said the enhanced transparency requirements would be “particularly burdensome” for smaller providers.

Sidestepping Hot Issues
FCC officials on today’s call were non-committal about several hot issues related to the Open Internet Order – including its impact on wireless plans that throttle service speed after customers reach their monthly data cap and on interconnection agreements between content or backbone providers and broadband access providers.

The officials noted that all existing interconnection agreements remain in effect but the commission will investigate any complaints they receive. The wireless question also would be investigated in response to a complaint, the officials said – but they added that reasonable network management, as allowed by the new Open Internet guidelines, applies to technology requirements not business practices.

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