Small broadband providers would not have to comply with parts of the Open Internet Order for five years if the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act introduced yesterday becomes law. The legislation, House of Representatives bill 4596, was introduced by Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, and Representative Dave Loebsack, an Iowa Democrat.
According to a document about the act posted on Walden’s website, the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act would provide a temporary exemption for broadband providers with fewer than 1,500 employees or 500,000 subscribers, but according to press reports, a compromise was reached so that only companies with fewer than 250,000 subscribers would be eligible. A press release from American Cable Association, which represents small broadband providers, notes that the exemption applies to “enhanced transparency” requirements.
Meeting those requirements is time consuming, as they include reporting information about network management policies, promotional rates, packet loss and more. Smaller broadband providers had argued that meeting those requirements imposed a heavy burden, which led the FCC to provide a temporary exemption for companies with 100,000 subscribers or fewer when the Open Internet Order was adopted last year.
The proposed legislation expands the number of companies exempted and the duration of the exemption.
Kudos from ACA and NTCA
Both the ACA and NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association issued statements praising the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act.
“ACA was heartened when the FCC first adopted and then extended the temporary exemption for smaller ISPs, but, at the end of the day, smaller ISPs, which already need to comply with existing transparency rules and other onerous Open Internet requirements, need the certainty that only a long-term exemption can provide,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka. “They can then use their scarce resources to invest in their networks and provide innovative, advanced services to their subscribers.”
NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield offered similar remarks.
“Instead of being subjected to these burdensome transparency requirements, this bill will allow NTCA members and other small rural broadband providers across the country to free up time and resources to focus on investing in networks and better serving consumers,” she said.