FCC Extends Deadline For ISPs' Controversial Equipment Rental Charges

Advertisement
Advertisement

The FCC has reportedly granted internet service providers (ISPs) with nearly an additional six months to continue charging equipment rental fees even where users are utilizing their own equipment. The commission has essentially re-examined a deadline put in place by the Television Viewer Protection Act (TVPA) of 2019. According to the FCC, extending that in favor of ISPs helps carriers better serve customers.

Under the TVPA, certain requirements for ISPs had been set to promote "truth-in-billing" for consumers. In effect, ISPs would be required by the law to stop participating in an ongoing trend wherein they charge consumers for using equipment that wasn't provided by the ISP. That law was set to go into effect as of June 20th.

With that law in place, customers who utilize their own equipment won't be charged by their provider for doing so. The underlying goal was meant to address circumstances where rental equipment was being billed but not provided. But it was also meant to address concerns related to ISPs effectively locking down what equipment consumers could use. The rental fees were deemed to effectively prevent customers from using their own, preferred modems and routers.

Advertisement

Those rules were placed alongside others pertaining more directly to how pricing was being portrayed to consumers. ISPs and other service providers would, under the law, be required to give an accurate and full accounting of pricing. That includes close estimations of government fees and taxes.

The FCC is attempting to strike a balance for ISPs by extending equipment rental law deadlines

By extending the deadline by which ISPs can no longer charge equipment rental fees under the above-mentioned law, the FCC claims it is trying to strike a balance. Broadband ISPs are at the center of education, work, and entertainment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, YouTube and other content providers have actively been diminishing the quality of streaming services to cope with the extra load on networks.

In its ruling on the incoming law and its requirements, the FCC says it is taking that into account. Namely, the commission says that ISPs are playing a key role in helping Americans stay "informed and connected."

Advertisement

As such, the six-month extension on the deadline is being put in place for the ISPs' benefit. The providers are expected to take advantage of the extension to pool resources. Specifically, the FCC expects those resources to be put into keeping networks up and running.

When will ISPs be forced to stop charging for the equipment?

Now that an extension has been granted, consumers who have been charged wayward rental fees will need to keep paying those. Or at least for as long as the providers continue charging the fees, up until the extension ends. The FCC's extension will run for six months, as noted above. So ISPs won't be forced to stop charging the fees until December 20.

Carriers and ISPs, for their part, have reportedly agreed to continue holding off on late fees and account terminations until June 30. That promise is in keeping with the "Keep Americans Connected" pledge carriers and ISPs signed onto back in March.

Advertisement