FCC makes net neutrality rules less effective

The newly Republican-controlled FCC took its first steps to scale back net neutrality today by voting to lift transparency requirements from smaller internet providers. The expanded exemption will excuse any ISP with up to 250,000 subscribers from complying with those transparency rules.

Pai, in the end, described the change as necessary to protect "mom and pop" ISPs, saying that, "I firmly believe that these ISPs should spend their limited capital building out better broadband to rural America, not hiring lawyers and accountants to fill out unnecessary paperwork demanded by Washington".

Pai circulated the proposal shortly after taking over as chairman last month.

The disclosure rules proved important to the FCC's broadband policy under the leadership of former head Tom Wheeler. Wheeler recirculated the exemption for renewal, but Republicans disagreed on the size of businesses that should be exempted.

The transparency rule, waived for five years in a 2-1 party-line vote Thursday, requires broadband providers to explain to customers their pricing models and fees as well as their network management practices and the impact on broadband service. That legislation passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Small network operators testified before Congress previous year, saying they lack the resources larger providers like Comcast or Verizon can spend to ensure compliance.

Some measures, however, were more contentious, such as one that exempts small internet providers from part of the net neutrality rule the Commission adopted two years ago.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, dissenting, said that the measure as part of "an ongoing quest to dismantle basic consumer protections for broadband services, the majority has chose to exempt billion dollar companies from being transparent with consumers". The commission had previously exempted carriers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers from these reporting requirements, but today's vote expands the waiver.

Both Pai and Clyburn said they'd tried, and failed, to secure a last-minute compromise on the issue. He hinted other net neutrality rules could face the same fate soon. "That will have to wait for another day in the near future". He said they are in discussions with Democrats and Republicans in Congress and are assessing the "legal landscape" of the regulations.

  • Arturo Norris