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ACA Calls On FCC To Retain Enhanced Transparency Rule Exemption For Smaller ISPs

Compliance Costs Too Burdensome Relative To Benefits For End Users

PITTSBURGH, August 6, 2015 -  The American Cable Association, which represents more than 700 smaller broadband providers - those with fewer than 100,000 broadband connections -- called on the Federal Communications Commission to retain the enhanced transparency exemption for smaller broadband ISPs contained in the 2015 Open Internet Order to lessen the regulatory burdens on these economically vulnerable providers that are already keeping their customers satisfied with informed disclosures about their network's commercial terms, performance characteristics, and network management practices.

"The costs of discontinuing the small provider exemption are significant, and the benefits are de minimus at best.  Accordingly, the FCC should make permanent the exemption adopted in February, 2015, to provide the kind of regulatory certainty that a one-time or temporary exemption does not offer," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

The FCC imposed transparency requirements on all broadband ISPs in its 2010 Open Internet Order -- rules that ACA believes struck the right balance between broadband ISPs and users and were upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In the 2015 Open Internet Order, the FCC added many new layers to the 2010 transparency requirements while issuing a temporary exemption for broadband ISPs with 100,000 or fewer connections, which runs out in mid-December.  The Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau (Bureau) is now seeking comment about whether to make that exemption permanent.

In comments filed on Aug. 5 with the FCC, ACA urged the Bureau to make the exemption permanent, saying the FCCs assumptions about the impact of lifting the exemption and its appreciation for the economic challenges that smaller ISPs encounter on a day-to-day basis were understated.

ACA pointed out that the FCC assumed that the new regulations would add just a few hours in compliance time to provide more granular disclosure regarding commercial terms, performance, and network practices.  From discussions with ACA Members, the trade group determined that the burden would be far more substantial for smaller broadband providers than the FCC estimated, especially given that nearly all ISPs that have fewer than 100,000 broadband connections do not have dedicated regulatory personnel or in-house counsel.  The additional information that the FCC would like broadband ISPs to provide would in the case of smaller ISPs involve allocating staff time to updating and redrafting even small changes required by the rules.

"This will require hours of work on the part of in-house business and legal personnel, to the extent they exist, and, out of an abundance of caution, providers will then use outside counsel to review the disclosures' compliance with these wide-ranging (and often subjective) requirements," ACA said.

ACA also stressed that the enhanced transparency rules would not appreciably improve awareness of the network performance characteristics relevant to the interests of its members' subscribers or of edge content providers.

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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