FCC lops off red tape around small US ISPs, y'know, things like having to own up about connection speeds

And hidden fees and pricing

The FCC has granted pricing and speed reporting exemptions long sought by small US broadband providers.

America's comms watchdog said Thursday it would no longer ask ISPs with fewer than 250,000 subscriber connections to disclose pricing and performance details as required by the 2015 Open Internet Act.

The decision extends the exemption limit from the previous mark of 100,000 to 250,000, meaning more carriers who serve small communities or sparsely populated rural areas will no longer be obligated to report information such as connection bandwidth, promotional pricing, and surcharge fees.

The regulator notes that carriers are still required to disclose the performance and pricing details required in the 2010 Open Internet Order.

Smaller carriers have long sought out special exemptions to the FCC privacy and transparency rules, arguing that they shouldn't be held to the same recordkeeping and reporting standards applied to large national telcos.

By a 2-1 vote, the FCC agreed [PDF] to the new exemptions, with Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly arguing against Commissioner Mignon Clyburn that smaller ISPs do not have the time or staff required to keep up with the Open Internet Act's demands.

The FCC argues that the move will help carriers by "freeing them to devote more resources to operating, improving and building out their networks."

The action is the latest in an ongoing campaign by the FCC under Pai to roll back or outright erase many of the directives issued by Pai's predecessor Tom Wheeler, including efforts to protect net neutrality requirements.

Not everyone is happy with the move. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) issued a statement condemning the move shortly after the FCC announced it.

"But by granting this carve-out for the broadband industry, the FCC has made pricing and performance information less accessible to small businesses and consumers. Consumers deserve truth in pricing information," Markey said.

"Instead of allowing ISPs to hide pricing information, the FCC should promote transparency so subscribers have all the background they need to make educated decisions about their broadband service." ®

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