A recent FCC order highlights the perils of ignoring FCC rules and filing requirements. It also continues a trend we’ve noticed recently: the FCC is using seemingly unrelated reporting systems to identify companies, no matter their size, for noncompliance with its rules. This order adds a new twist by tying an exemption opportunity from one if its requirements to the act of compliance with a separate requirement. Here’s how:
In March 2015, the FCC adopted new Open Internet Rules (see TMI Blog dated 2/27/15) applicable to broadband internet access services, including the “enhanced transparency” rule. The new rule “enhances” a 2010 rule that already required public disclosure of broadband network management practices and performance by requiring broadband internet access providers to provide consumers with more specific and detailed disclosures, including:
- full monthly charges
- early termination fees
- data caps and allowances
- network performance characteristics (e.g., speed, latency, packet loss)
- network practices.
In its March order, the FCC temporarily exempted providers with 100,000 or fewer broadband internet access connections (aggregated over all of their affiliates), based on the data from their most recent semi-annual FCC Form 477 filing.
Yesterday, the FCC extended this temporary exemption until December 15, 2016, but with a significant catch: the exemption is now tied to the timely filing of a Form 477 for carriers that are obligated to file that form. If a provider fails to timely file a required Form 477 it will be ineligible for the exemption, even if it satisfies the 100,000 or fewer broadband connection criteria. Providers not required to file a Form 477 will have to demonstrate that they were below the exemption size threshold at the relevant time, should a complaint arise that alleges non-compliance with the enhanced transparency rules. By tying together the 477 filing requirement with the enhanced transparency rules, a small broadband internet access service provider could now suffer in several ways from failing to timely file a Form 477: (1) monetary penalties resulting from the late filing itself; (2) relinquishment of the temporary exemption from the enhanced transparency rules; and/or (3) additional monetary penalties for not complying with the enhanced transparency rules if they fail to realize that they forfeited the exemption because they did not timely file the Form 477.
This latest FCC ruling gives added incentive for small broadband Internet access service providers to make sure that they determine if they are required to file the Form 477 and, if so, to timely file it. The Form 477 must be filed twice each year, on March 1and September 1. It requires facilities-based broadband internet access service providers to submit broadband subscription counts by census tract, technology type and speeds and broadband deployment (where service is offered) by census block, technology and maximum speed. Companies who provide voice services (wireline or VoIP), including facilities-based providers and resellers, must also report their local line and VoIP subscription counts by census tract, and provide certain other information about their subscriber characteristics. The FCC uses the 477 data to monitor the deployment of high-speed connectivity throughout the U.S. and identify gaps in coverage, which may result in funding opportunities for providing service to the underserved or unserved areas.
See several additional article from TMI regarding FCC Form 477
- FCC 477 Expanded Reporting Challenges dated 7/9/13
- Time To Prepare for FCC Form 477 – Again dated 6/5/15
- Received Any Inquiries From FCC Auditors Re: FCC Form 477 Filing? dated 8/5/14
- Mining Gold from your FCC Form 477 dated 9/16/15