NRECA is asking the Federal Communications Commission for targeted compliance exemptions for electric cooperatives in any new “net neutrality" rules for internet service providers.

The FCC is proposing to reinstate 2015 net neutrality rules and reclassify broadband from a less-regulated information service to a telecommunications service, giving the commission broader authority to apply more stringent regulations to high-speed internet access.

Net neutrality is the principal that all legal internet traffic should be treated equally and not subject to blocking or intentional slowing, also known as “throttling," by internet service providers. Electric co-ops providing internet service support net neutrality and treat all their broadband consumers equally, NRECA said, but the FCC's plan could be problematic.

In comments to the FCC submitted Dec. 14, NRECA raised concerns about the effect that reclassification of broadband will have on electric co-ops and asked for targeted exemptions for internet service providers with fewer than 100,000 customers from the more stringent compliance requirements proposed.

“Excessive, onerous regulation could divert investment resources away from efforts to reach small, rural communities," said Greg Orlando, NRECA director of regulatory issues for broadband and telecommunications.

NRECA also asked the FCC to consider the following recommendations:

  • Clarify that electric utility support functions, including “smart grid" and Supervisory Control and Data Administration (SCADA), are not broadband services subject to stricter telecom requirements.
  • Clearly define the roles between federal and state entities over broadband internet access service.
  • Address potential new rules related to privacy and Universal Service in separate rulemakings.
  • Exempt small, locally owned providers from burdensome network outage reporting requirements.

The FCC may finalize its net neutrality rules for internet providers as early as next year.