FCC lifts transparency requirements for some internet providers

The new FCC is chipping away at net neutrality.

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The Federal Communications Commission today voted to remove reporting requirements for internet providers with fewer than 250,000 subscribers, a move that chips away at the foundation of net neutrality. Today's vote means these smaller carriers no longer have to publicly share information about data caps, fees, and network performance and management practices for at least five years.

The FCC, which recently became a Republican-controlled regulatory body, called the accounting and reporting requirements "unnecessary burdens" on carriers. The commission had previously exempted carriers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers from these reporting requirements, but today's vote expands the waiver. As PC World notes, only about 20 internet service providers have more than 250,000 subscribers.

"Relieving small providers of these excessive, burdensome reporting obligations will free up resources for these companies to invest in new and expanded networks, which provide more competitive options for consumers and lower prices," an FCC spokesperson said. "Consumers will continue to have access to the information they need to choose a provider and plan, which broadband providers already disclose and was required by the 2010 Open Internet Order."

The vote passed 2-1 along party lines, with Democrat Mignon Clyburn opposed. Clyburn argued the new rules impact larger carriers as well, allowing their smaller subsidiaries to operate without transparency.

"In an ongoing quest to dismantle basic consumer protections for broadband services, the majority has decided to exempt billion-dollar public companies from being transparent with consumers," Clyburn added. "This represents yet another in a series of steps being taken to jettison pro-consumer initiatives."

New FCC chairman Ajit Pai is firmly against net neutrality, as is commissioner Michael O'Rielly. In early February, Pai announced the FCC would no longer investigate carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T for "zero rating" programs, which have been criticized as circumventing the goal of net neutrality.