FCC Urged To Grant Small ISPs Permanent Exemption From Broadband Disclosure Rules

Small Internet service providers shouldn't be required to disclose details of their broadband pricing policies, including their use of data caps, according to the wireless group CTIA.

That trade organization is asking the Federal Communications Commission to permanently exempt small ISPs from a net neutrality rule requiring providers to transparently inform subscribers about broadband policies, including prices, speeds, surcharges, data caps and network management practices.

The disclosure rules "are unnecessary and unduly burdensome for all broadband providers, and particularly burdensome for smaller providers, many of which lack the monetary and/or staff resources to comply with complex disclosure requirements that will not provide any benefit to smaller providers’ customers," the group writes in a letter sent to the FCC on Monday.

Last year, the FCC granted Internet service providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers a one-year exemption from a net neutrality rule requiring carriers to disclose information about their practices to consumers. That exemption is set to expire on Dec. 15, unless the FCC extends it.

CTIA also urges the FCC to broaden its definition of "small" ISPs to include companies with more than 100,000 providers. The group notes that the Small Business Administration defines small telecoms as "either a non-dominant carrier with fewer than 1,500 employees or an entity with 500,000 or fewer subscribers." The organization adds that two pending bills define small telecoms as companies with 250,000 or fewer subscribers.

The FCC first passed disclosure rules -- also known as "transparency" rules -- in 2010, when the agency enacted an earlier version of net neutrality regulations. An appellate court struck down most of the regulations, but left the transparency rules in place.

In 2015, when the FCC voted in favor of a new set of new net neutrality rules, the agency beefed up the transparency rule by requiring providers to disclose items like promotional rates, surcharges, data caps as well as network management practices that can affect service.

The FCC recently accused two companies -- T-Mobile and AT&T -- of violating the transparency rule by throttling some customers who subscribed to unlimited data plans. T-Mobile agreed to pay $48 million to settle with the FCC, but AT&T is fighting the allegations.

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