House unanimously approves Walden bill exempting small ISPs from FCC reporting requirements

The House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill on Wednesday that was introduced by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) to relieve burdens on small Internet providers.

Walden introduced the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act, H.R. 4596, after small Internet service providers (ISPs) across the country raised concerns about compliance costs associated with new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) transparency rules.

“One of my top priorities has been extending reliable Internet service to rural areas in Oregon,” Walden said. “This bill helps do that. New rules from the Federal Communications Commission would have forced many small Internet service providers to spend time and resources on complying with overly burdensome red tape instead of extending service for consumers. By exempting small providers from these unnecessary rules, this bill allows them to focus on their core mission: providing broadband Internet access to customers in Oregon and across the country, especially in rural and hard to serve areas.” 

Under the bill, ISPs with fewer than 250,000 subscribers would be exempt for five years from enhanced FCC transparency rules. The rules require companies to publicly disclose information about network management, performance and commercial terms.

“(Wednesday’s) unanimous vote sends a strong signal that the House supports consumers and small businesses,” Walden said. “I am pleased that the White House has said that the President would sign this bill, and I urge the Senate to quickly pass it.”

The FCC would be directed to report to Congress on whether or not the small ISP exemption should be made permanent under the bill.

Speaking in support of the bill, Jeff Crews, the chief technology officer at Eastern Oregon Net in La Grande, Ore., said that government reporting rules require a lot of time and resources from small ISPs.

“Our company is a small, local, non-subsidized team of people that works to deliver high speed Internet in our rural communities,” Crews said. “We deliver faster broadband service, better local customer service and do this at a price that is a fair value for our customers. We do not have dedicated staff for legal, regulatory compliance, mapping and reporting. When we actually learn of government reporting or other filing requirements it takes a lot of time to figure out the instructions, develop systems to gather the data (which we usually do not have in the form required), hope the data is what the government agency really wants and actually file the submission.”

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