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WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to extend and expand an unjustified exemption from its Net Neutrality transparency rules. The Commission voted 2–1 on the matter, with Commissioner Clyburn casting the sole dissenting vote, and Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Mike O’Rielly voting for the exemption.

The FCC’s landmark 2015 Open Internet Order adopted “enhanced transparency” rules that built on requirements already applicable to internet service providers at that time. Those enhancements required broadband ISPs to disclose the performance characteristics of the services they sell; their network-management practices; and their full slate of prices, promotional rates, fees, penalties and data caps.

When the Commission voted on the 2015 Open Internet Order in February of that year, it decided to temporarily exempt from these enhanced transparency requirements so-called small ISPs with up to 100,000 subscribers. Today’s vote extends that temporary exemption for another five years, and increases the number of broadband customers that the exempt companies can have from 100,000 to 250,000.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Here’s how cost-benefit analysis works in the Trump administration and at the Pai FCC: If any favored lobby like the cable industry claims that rules cost them money, the agency will zap those rules — without any regard for their benefits.

“There’s been a lot of ink spilled in the last two years about protecting small businesses from the alleged regulatory burdens of the Net Neutrality rules. But just as big cable and phone companies have failed to prove any harms from the rules in general, small ISPs have failed to demonstrate any real burdens from following these common-sense transparency requirements.

“The hopelessly vague, wildly disparate and frankly underwhelming numbers that various lobbying groups have sprinkled around in the docket to argue for this exemption are no justification for enlarging and extending it. Companies with hundreds of thousands of customers and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues can certainly afford to inform those customers about the services they buy.

“A few truly small businesses do sell internet access. But millions more small businesses buy it. There’s no reason that customers of smaller ISPs deserve less information than others do about the internet services they pay so much for each and every month.”

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