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In FCC Meetings, ACA Members Ask For Relief From Title II Burdens

Agency Staff Told Smaller ISPs Pose No Threat To The Open Internet

PITTSBURGH, February 4, 2015 - In recent meetings at the Federal Communications Commission, three ACA member companies explained that small and mid-sized cable broadband providers pose no threat to the open Internet and should be granted broad forbearance from Title II regulations that the FCC is expected to adopt later this month.

"ACA believes that reclassification is the wrong approach for small and medium-sized Internet Service Providers, which lack the incentive and ability to harm Internet openness from a factual, policy and legal perspective.  Title II would impose unwarranted and burdensome common carrier obligations, and the FCC needs to grant this class of ISPs significant forbearance," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

In Jan. 29 meetings at the FCC, ACA staff accompanied executives from Cedar Falls Utilities, Jackson Energy Authority and Shentel.  These members explained, with examples, that they have no incentive or ability to harm Internet openness by discriminating against, blocking, throttling, or charging fees for priority delivery to Internet edge providers and that reclassification of broadband as a Title II service would be harmful to them unless appropriate forbearance and exemptions for small and medium-sized ISPs are adopted.  They also explained that reclassification would come with many unintended adverse consequences, such as higher fees for their attachments to poles, ducts and conduits owned by third parties that are essential to the distribution of their services.

In the meetings, the ACA member company executives stressed:

  • The market is working to bring broadband deployment and advanced services to small and hard-to-serve areas of the country, consistent with the goals of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the National Broadband Plan of 2010;
  • Small ISPs adhere to open Internet principles;
  • Providers like CFU, JEA and Shentel lack the market power or negotiating leverage to harm dominant Internet edge providers like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu;
  • Title II regulation would harm the finances of smaller ISPs and hinder their ability to deploy broadband;
  • Once reclassified as telecommunications carriers, ACA's cable members would be subject to assessments at the telecommunications rate for pole attachments, which can be significantly higher, under certain circumstances, than the cable rate currently applicable to their cable and Internet services.

ACA's position is that if the FCC reclassifies broadband Internet access as a Title II service, it must avoid imposing unwarranted and burdensome Title II regulatory obligations and allowing unintended adverse consequences such as higher pole attachment rates.  It must also eschew imposing unnecessary and burdensome enhanced transparency requirements in addition to the current transparency requirements, which provide consumers and edge providers with adequate information about Internet services and ISP network management practices without unduly burdening smaller ISPs.

ACA believes there is a significant risk that the consequences of reclassification will be far worse than the FCC believes, with absolutely no demonstrable corresponding benefit to either the Internet community as a whole or the residents of the communities served by smaller ISPs.

As a result, ACA is asking the FCC, with respect to small ISPs, to forbear from applying the regulatory obligations applicable to Title II telecommunications carriers, including those found in Sections 201, 202 and 208; declare broadband Internet to be an interstate service and preempt inconsistent state regulation; exempt smaller ISPs from any new and enhanced transparency obligations; and protect cable ISPs from increases in their pole attachment rates under the telecommunications rate formula.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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