Smaller ISPs Concerned Despite FCC Assurances Of Minimal Disruption
WASHINGTON, March 5, 2015 – The Federal Communications Commission’s new Title II rules for broadband Internet Service Providers were hotly debated at ACA’s Summit in Washington D.C., ahead of the release of the FCC’s 300-plus page order that imposes a ban on ISP blocking, throttling or paid prioritization of content, services and applications flowing over the global communications network.
Gigi Sohn, Counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, told ACA Summit attendees that the light-touch application of Title II to broadband ISPs “will not affect your business in any negative way.”
Ms. Sohn, in a Q&A with ACA’s Ross Lieberman, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, stressed that the FCC has forborn form applying 27 of 43 provisions in Title II.
“We have applied things like privacy, consumer protections against billing fraud, disabled protections,” Sohn said. “These are the requirements, but I don’t think you will find them burdensome. It is critically important to the Chairman that they not be burdensome,” she added.
Lieberman said ACA is concerned particularly about the application of Sections 201 and 202 of Title II to smaller ISPs and politely replied that ACA and the FCC would have to “agree to disagree” as to whether these providers would be burdened by the FCC’s application of Title II. In filings leading up to the FCC’s vote, ACA has argued that Title II’s Sections 201 and 202 would be significantly burdensome.
“We are going to look at the order when it is released and we will assess it,” Lieberman said. “We don’t have the benefit of the order itself yet.”
Ms. Sohn said the Title II order would be released after FCC staff had responded to the dissenting views of the two Republican FCC Commissioners in the body of the document.
Ms. Sohn also addressed small ISPs’ concerns regarding the potential for rate regulation. These fears “shouldn’t keep you up at night,” she said, adding that such claims are a “bit of a scare tactic” used by Title II opponents. Lieberman again respectfully disagreed, and said smaller ISPs are quite scared.
“We have decided not to apply every single administrative mechanism that would make rate regulation possible,” Ms. Sohn explained.
On a panel following the Sohn-Lieberman exchange, ACA outside counsel Barbara Esbin of Cinnamon Mueller said ACA sought relief from Secs. 201b and 202 because they subject ISPs’ rates, terms and conditions to a “just and reasonable” standard, leaving ACA members exposed “to complaints at the FCC and in court and damage awards in the FCC and in court.”
Although ISPs with 100,000 subscribers did get temporary relief from the FCC’s enhanced transparency rules, Esbin noted that ACA was “unsuccessful in getting any forbearance from the other obligations that we do believe will be very burdensome despite Chairman Wheeler’s desire that they not be.”
The FCC’s Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau has until December 15, 2015, to decide whether the transparency exemption should be permanent and whether 100,000 is the correct definition of small, Ms. Sohn said.
“I expect to see [ACA] back in the halls again arguing for a permanent exemption and giving us the right baseline for what small is,” Ms. Sohn said.
Ms. Sohn praised ACA’s approach to drawing the FCC’s attention to the concerns of smaller ISPs.
“ACA put forth some of the best advocacy. You were civil and you gave strong arguments. We really, really appreciate it,” she said.
Taking place March 3-5 in Washington, D.C., the ACA Summit is a forum that allows independent cable operators to come in close contact with America’s top lawmakers, regulators and journalists to discuss the vital communications issues of our time.
The event is taking place at the Grand Hyatt, 1000 H Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. Please visit the ACA Summit 2015 website by clicking here: ACA Summit.
Created in the early 1990’s, the ACA Summit gives independent cable operators a vehicle for framing the issues in their own words during dozens of meetings on Capitol Hill over a short period of time. More so than ever, ACA Members agree on the need to speak with one voice and to be as visible as possible in making their views known on the diverse and complex issues facing their companies.
ACA’s more than 800 independent cable operators play a unique role in providing best-in-class communications services to millions of consumers, many living and working in rural areas of the country. These operators also are competitive providers of cable service in urban areas, bringing choice and price competition to consumers. When it comes to responding to the critical broadband infrastructure needs of America, ACA Members are supplying the solutions.
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing about 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 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 https://acaconnects.org/