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ACA Comments On Cost Burdens Of FCC Open Internet Rules

Responding to the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet rules, the American Cable Association believes the agency has substantially underestimated the likely information collection burdens on small cable operators that will need to answer complaints and disclose their network management practices.

"While ACA is pleased that the FCC declined to require our members to comply with Title II common carrier rules, the FCC should ensure that compliance costs with its Open Internet framework are kept to a minimum and do not disproportionately burden small, independent cable operators," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka.

FCC Open Internet rules -- adopted last December but yet to take effect -- ban fixed broadband access providers from blocking legal Internet traffic and unreasonably managing their networks while requiring all broadband access providers to disclose details about how they manage their networks, including performance metrics and commercial terms of service provided end users.

In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), the FCC sought comment on agency time and cost estimates for broadband access providers to prepare responses in the event of complaints alleging violations of the Open Internet rules, and to create a network management disclosure statement on their company websites and at the point-of-sale with consumers and third parties.

In an April 8 filing, ACA documented that FCC estimates do not appear to reflect accurately the time and cost burdens on small cable companies - including legal services provided by outside and inside counsel - when they need to seek resolution of complaints at the FCC when less formal means have failed. ACA made a similar argument with regard to the disclose of accurate information regarding network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of broadband Internet access providers sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding the use of such services and for content, application, service and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.

"ACA filed the PRA comments to assist the FCC in adequately evaluating the burdens its new Open Internet rules will have on small cable companies," Polka explained. "Calculating accurate estimates is critically important and ACA is pleased to provide more accurate estimates of these burdens."

ACA indicated that FCC man-hour requirements for both categories were significantly low when compared to the template the agency used; namely, the Part 76 cable access complaint rules. The FCC estimated that each Open Internet complaint would require 15.9 man hours of work while a complaint under the Part 76 rules would require 67. 7 hours when a broadband access provider relied on in-house counsel.

"The information collection requirements associated with the Open Internet transparency and complaint response rules will increase the paperwork burdens on small and rural cable operators. Calculating accurate man-hour and financial cost estimates for new information collection requirements is a critically important part of the Commission's responsibilities under the PRA," ACA said in the FCC filing.

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