April 11, 2024

ACA Connects Advocates for Small Providers in FCC Net Neutrality Roundtable 

April 11, 2024—Today, ACA Connects Chief Regulatory Counsel Brian Hurley participated in a roundtable at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) discussing the FCC’s draft Order on Safeguarding and Securing an Open Internet. 

As prepared for delivery, the following are excerpts of Hurley’s remarks presented to Commissioner Anna Gomez. 

“Broadband in America has thrived under the balanced, time-tested regulatory approach that prevails today. The record demonstrates that, as a matter of both law and policy, the Commission should continue that approach. ACA Connects thus respectfully requests that the Commission decline to move forward with the draft Order on Safeguarding and Securing the Open Internet. At minimum, it should modify the draft Order to mitigate its harmful impacts on smaller broadband providers and the communities they serve.  

“ACA Connects represents about 500 smaller broadband providers who are playing an integral role in bringing Internet to all. In the past six years, our Members have invested billions to upgrade their networks and increase their coverage. They now reach about 32 million households, including 7.3 million in rural areas. This means consumers have greater access to high-performance broadband service and greater competition. Today, based on the Commission’s own data, the vast majority of Americans have access to two or more broadband providers, and that should continue to increase.” 

Hurley explained ACA Connects Members are upholding the principles of an open Internet and delivering high-quality services to customers. 

“To build or upgrade a broadband network requires tremendous upfront capital investment, and the only way to recover that investment is by signing up and then giving the greatest possible experience to as many households as possible.  If they block, throttle, or degrade traffic, they know they will lose subscribers. If they develop a reputation for engaging in such practices, they won’t win customers in the first place. And that means losing or forgoing revenues but still having large costs to recover.  Further, our Members have no leverage over edge providers or other upstream providers – indeed they often struggle to get these much larger players to return their calls.  Thus, it is not state open Internet laws or the mere threat of federal action that is making our Members act consistent with open Internet principles – it is their inherent incentive to do right by their subscribers. 

“It is therefore unsurprising that, over the many years that net neutrality and open Internet practices have been a focus of attention, credible examples of blocking, throttling or paid prioritization are so sparse. In fact, one of the most prominent examples cited in the draft Order is nearly twenty years old.” 

To conclude his remarks, he urged the FCC to abandon its misguided Title II proposal – or at least take steps to mitigate the burdens for smaller providers.  

“These sweeping mandates will add unnecessary ‘friction’ to our Members’ business decisions, at a time when they are working to expand connectivity and help close the digital divide.  As one of my Member company executives told me in a conversation earlier this week, ‘Every dollar we spend on regulatory compliance is a dollar we don’t invest in our networks.’  


“We have urged the Commission to abandon its proposed return to Title II. We continue to believe that broadband is correctly classified as an information service and this is the best approach to meet our nation’s connectivity goals

“At minimum, the Commission should modify the draft Order to mitigate the unintended consequences of this approach, especially for smaller providers and their communities. In particular, the Commission should defer enforcement of Sections 201 and 202 and the ‘general conduct’ rule for six months from the effective date of the Order, at least for smaller providers.  

“This would be similar to the approach taken in the Digital Discrimination Order, where the Commission adopted a six-month pause in initiating enforcement investigations in order to give providers time ‘to review their policies and practices in light of the rules’ being adopted. A similar pause is warranted here. In fact, providers will not only have to assess the impact of Title II on their current practices and future plans, but also determine how Title II intersects with the Digital Discrimination rules. This will be a massively complex undertaking, especially for smaller providers that don’t have huge teams to share the load.” 

About ACA Connects: America’s Communications Association –America’s Communications Association – ACA Connects is a trade organization representing more than 500 smaller and medium-sized, independent companies that provide broadband, video, and phone services covering 31.9 million households, 7.3 million of which are located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. ACA Connects Members operate in every state, providing advanced communications to connect homes, companies, main street, schools, hospitals and more. America’s economic prosperity in smaller communities and rural areas depends on the growth and success of ACA Connects Members, who believe a connected nation is a prosperous nation.

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