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EB & OGC Issue Advisory Guidance on Open Internet Transparency Rule

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Released: June 30, 2011

PUBLIC NOTICE

Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th St., S.W.

Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

Washington, D.C. 20554

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

DA 11-1148

Released: June 30, 2011

FCC ENFORCEMENT BUREAU AND OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL ISSUE ADVISORY

GUIDANCE FOR COMPLIANCE WITH OPEN INTERNET TRANSPARENCY RULE

GN Docket No. 09-191, WC Docket No. 07-52

In this Public Notice, the Enforcement Bureau and Office of General Counsel (together, the
“Bureau”) offer initial guidance regarding specific methods of disclosure that will be considered to
comply with the transparency rule adopted in the Commission’s Open Internet Order.1 This guidance is
intended for broadband providers seeking additional clarification about disclosure practices that will
satisfy the rule when it becomes effective.2 We emphasize that the alternatives described here are
examples of approaches to disclosure that would satisfy the transparency rule; broadband providers may
implement alternative approaches that disclose information sufficient to adequately inform consumers and
relevant third parties.3 And as noted in the Open Internet Order, the Commission or the Bureau may
provide additional guidance in the future.4
In the Open Internet Order, the Commission concluded that effective disclosure of broadband
providers’ network management practices increases “the likelihood that broadband providers will abide
by open Internet principles,” enables the Internet community and the FCC to identify and address open
Internet violations, and correspondingly increases “the chances that harmful practices will not occur.”5
For example, information about performance metrics such as broadband speed and latency can help
consumers and others identify situations in which access to a particular website or application may have
been slowed if the speed or latency experienced in accessing that website or application is consistently
and significantly worse than the disclosed speed or latency for the broadband service. The Commission


1 Preserving the Open Internet, Broadband Industry Practices, Report and Order, 25 FCC Rcd 17905, 17936-41
(2010).
2 The rules adopted in the Open Internet Order will become effective 60 days after the Federal Register notice
announcing the decision of the Office of Management and Budget approving the information collection
requirements contained in those rules. See id. at 17989, para. 161.
3 See id. at 17938, 17941, paras. 56, 59.
4 Id. at 17940, para. 58.
5 Id. at 17936, para. 53.

also found that disclosure of network management practices and the performance and commercial terms
of broadband services empowers consumers and promotes competition and investment, further reducing
broadband providers’ incentives and ability to engage in harmful conduct.6
To achieve these objectives, the Commission adopted the following transparency rule:
A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose
accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and
commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make
informed choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device
providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.
7
The Commission stated that “effective disclosures will likely include” information concerning “some or
all” of the following topics: (1) network practices, including congestion management, application-specific
behavior, device attachment rules, and security measures; (2) performance characteristics, including a
general description of system performance and the effects of specialized services, if any, on available
capacity; and (3) commercial terms, including pricing, privacy policies, and redress options.8 Rather than
providing an exhaustive list of topics that should be included in disclosures, the Commission concluded
that “the best approach is to allow flexibility in implementation of the transparency rule, while providing
guidance concerning effective disclosure models.”9 “Broadband providers should examine their network
management practices and current disclosures to determine what additional information, if any, should be
disclosed to comply with the rule.”10
The Commission indicated that it “may require adherence to a particular set of best practices in
the future,”11 and suggested that it might address this issue in the ongoing Consumer Information and
Disclosure
proceeding.12 The Commission also noted that it had launched a broadband performance
measurement project designed to measure some of the actual speed and performance characteristics of
broadband service, which “will inform Commission efforts regarding disclosure.”13
Pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA),14 the Commission published a notice in the
Federal Register on February 9, 2011 seeking comment on the PRA implications of the transparency rule,


6 Id.
7 Id. at 17937, para. 54.
8 Id. at 17938-39, para. 56.
9 Id.
10 Id.
11 Id. at 17940, para. 58.
12 Id. at para. 58 n.188; Consumer Information and Disclosure, Notice of Inquiry, 24 FCC Rcd 11380 (2009).
13 25 FCC Rcd at 17940, para. 58 n.188; see also Comment Sought on Residential Fixed Broadband Services Testing
and Measurement Solution, Pleading Cycle Established
, Public Notice, 25 FCC Rcd 3836 (2010); Comment Sought
on Measurement of Mobile Broadband Network Performance and Coverage
, Public Notice, 25 FCC Rcd 7069
(2010).
14 See Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Pub. L. 104-13, 109 Stat. 163 (1995), codified at 44 U.S.C. § 3501 et seq.
2

and in particular on the Commission’s estimate of the burden of the transparency rule on broadband
providers.15 In response to the Federal Register notice, broadband providers and broadband provider
industry associations expressed concerns arising from the flexibility provided to broadband providers in
complying with the transparency rule. In the absence of greater clarity regarding expected disclosures,
commenters stated, the transparency rule could be interpreted to require burdensome disclosures,
particularly for small providers that may not have resources comparable to the largest providers.16 Other
commenters suggested that it would be appropriate for the Commission to provide early guidance to
clarify disclosure obligations.17
To provide further clarity regarding the transparency rule, this Public Notice offers initial
guidance for compliance with certain aspects of the rule based on the Bureau’s understanding of the
information available to broadband providers at this time.18 While the suggestions below offer ways
broadband providers can satisfy their disclosure obligations, these particular methods of compliance are
not required or exclusive; broadband providers may comply with the transparency rule in other ways.
This Public Notice offers guidance in five specific areas:
1.

Point-of-Sale Disclosures

. The Open Internet Order requires broadband providers to
disclose network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms “at the point
of sale.”19 Some commenters raised concerns that the Order could be interpreted to require distribution of
physical materials at retail outlets and extensive training of sales employees at those locations and at
telephone and Internet sales centers operated by broadband providers or third parties.20 The Commission
addressed those concerns in the Order, stating that “broadband providers must, at a minimum,
prominently display or provide links to disclosures on a publicly available, easily accessible website that
is available to current and prospective end users and edge providers.”21 The Commission further
explained in the Order that it anticipated that “broadband providers may be able to satisfy the
transparency rule through a single disclosure.”22 Accordingly, we clarify that the Order does not compel


15 See Notice of Public Information Collection Being Reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission,
Comments Requested
, 76 Fed. Reg. 7207 (Feb. 9, 2011). The Commission also sought comment on the PRA
implications of the proposed transparency rule when it issued the Open Internet NPRM. See 74 Fed. Reg. 62638,
62639 (2009).
16 See, e.g., Letter from Ross Lieberman, Vice President of Government Affairs, ACA, et al. to Marlene Dortch,
Secretary, FCC, GN Docket No. 09-191, WC Docket No. 07-52 at 2 (filed June 8, 2011) (Lieberman Letter); CTIA
Comments at 12-15; NCTA Comments at 5-6.
17 See Letter from David Sohn, Center for Democracy & Technology, to Marlene Dortch, Secretary, FCC, GN
Docket No. 09-191, WC Docket No. 07-52 at 1 (filed June 3, 2011).
18 The guidance provided in no way alters broadband providers’ obligation to comply with elements of the
transparency rule not discussed herein, or with the Open Internet Order’s other rules.
19 25 FCC Rcd at 17940, para. 57.
20 See CTIA Comments at 12; MetroPCS Comments at 8-10; USTA Comments at 5, 10-11.
21 25 FCC Rcd at 17939-40, para. 57; see also id. at 17940, para. 58 n.186 (“[W]e expect that broadband providers
will make disclosures in a manner accessible by people with disabilities.”).
22 Id. at 17940, para. 58.
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the distribution of disclosure materials in hard copy or extensive training of sales employees to provide
the disclosures themselves. Broadband providers can comply with the point-of-sale requirement by, for
instance, directing prospective customers at the point of sale, orally and/or prominently in writing, to a
web address at which the required disclosures are clearly posted and appropriately updated.23 The address
provided should enable consumers easily to find the disclosures, rather than, for example, leading to a
broadband provider’s general purpose home page from which the disclosures are not clearly and readily
accessible. At brick-and-mortar retail outlets (i.e., not telephone or Internet sales centers), broadband
providers that rely on a web page for point-of-sale disclosure should make available equipment, such as a
computer, tablet, or smartphone, through which customers can access the disclosures.
2.

Service Description

. The Open Internet Order requires broadband providers to disclose
accurate information regarding network performance for each broadband service they offer.24 As noted in
the Order, the Commission has launched a broadband performance measurement project to accurately
measure key performance metrics, including baseline connection speed and latency.25 The Commission
expects initial results of the project to be finalized and publicly released before the open Internet rules
become effective. Both those initial results and the methodology developed through the project can
facilitate broadband providers’ measurement and disclosure of the actual performance of their services.
Ultimately, we expect the Commission or the Bureau to provide additional guidance regarding disclosure
of performance characteristics based on outputs from the broadband performance measurement project26
and the Consumer Information and Disclosure proceeding.
A.
Fixed Broadband. To satisfy their obligations under the transparency rule, the 13
fixed broadband providers that chose to participate in the broadband performance measurement project27—
which together account for approximately 86% of all residential fixed broadband connections in the U.S.28—
may disclose their results from the project as a sufficient representation of the actual performance their
customers can expect to experience. For example, for a particular tier of service, a broadband provider could
disclose data from the project showing the mean upload and download speeds in megabits per second during


23 See USTA Comments at 6; Lieberman Letter at 4. With regard to the form of website disclosures, we note that
the Commission considered Comcast’s disclosure concerning its congestion management practices likely to satisfy
the network practices disclosure requirement, and that this disclosure provides a useful guide for other disclosures.
See 25 FCC Rcd at 17938, para. 56 n.177; see also Comcast, Network Management Policy,
http://xfinity.comcast.net/terms/network/update/; Comcast, Frequently Asked Questions About Network
Management, http://customer.comcast.com/Pages/FAQViewer.aspx?seoid=Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-
Network-Management.
24 25 FCC Rcd at 17937, 17939, paras. 54, 56.
25 Id. at 17940, para. 58 n.188.
26 See supra n.13.
27 The participants in the project are AT&T, Cablevision, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Frontier, Insight,
Mediacom, Qwest, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Windstream. The project has also obtained some performance
measurements for broadband provided by Clear (fixed wireless), HughesNet (satellite), and WildBlue (satellite)
from customers that voluntarily submitted data.
28 The 86% figure is a staff calculation based on June 30, 2010 Form 477 data. See Industry Analysis and
Technology Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, Internet Access Services: Status as of June 30, 2010 (March
2011), available at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db0520/DOC-305296A1.pdf.
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the “busy hour” between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on weeknights. Similarly, broadband providers could
report mean roundtrip latency29 during this time period.
Providers that have not participated in the performance measurement project to date may use the
methodology developed through the project—which will be released along with the project’s initial
results—to measure the actual performance of their broadband offerings. Alternatively, a broadband
provider may disclose actual performance based on internal testing; consumer speed test data;30 or other
data regarding network performance, including reliable, relevant data from third-party sources such as the
broadband performance measurement project.

B.
Mobile Broadband. The Commission has recognized that measuring performance
can be more challenging for mobile broadband than for fixed,31 and is in the process of obtaining data
regarding mobile broadband performance that will help facilitate mobile broadband providers’ disclosure
of actual performance, as the broadband performance measurement project data will do for fixed services.
Once that data has been reviewed, we anticipate the Commission or the Bureau providing further
guidance regarding specific methods of disclosing performance information. Until then, mobile
broadband providers that have access to reliable information on network performance may disclose the
results of their own or third-party testing; many mobile providers routinely receive such performance
data.32 This disclosure could include mean upload and download speeds in megabits per second and mean
roundtrip latency. We recognize that some mobile broadband providers, particularly small providers, may
not have or reasonably be able to obtain reliable information on their network performance metrics such
as mean upload and download speeds. Such a provider that lacks reasonable access to this network
performance information may disclose a Typical Speed Range (TSR) representing the range of speeds and
latency that can be expected by most of their customers, for each technology/service tier offered, along
with a statement that such information is the best approximation available to the broadband provider of


29 Generally, roundtrip latency is the length of time for a signal to be sent between two defined end points and the
time it takes for an acknowledgement of the receipt of the signal to be received. See, e.g., Institute for
Telecommunication Sciences, Telecommunications: Glossary of Telecommunication Terms, Federal Standard
1037C, available at http://www.its.bldrdoc.gov/fs-1037/ (definition of “round-trip delay time”).
30 Various software-based broadband performance tests are available as potential tools for companies to estimate
actual broadband performance. Ookla Inc., host for the speedtest.net broadband performance test, has information
about obtaining test data at http://www.netindex.com/source-data/. Measurement Lab, the host for the NDT
broadband performance test, has information about obtaining test data at http://www.measurementlab.net/data.
31 See Connect America Fund, A National Broadband Plan for Our Future, High Cost Universal Service Support,
Notice of Inquiry and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Appendix C (The Broadband Availability Gap, Omnibus
Broadband Initiative Technical Paper 1), 25 FCC Rcd 6657, 6794 (2010).
32 In 2010, the Commission issued a public notice seeking comment on measurement of mobile broadband
performance. See Comment Sought on Measurement of Mobile Broadband Network Performance and Coverage,
Public Notice, CG Docket No. 09-158, CC Docket No. 98-170, WC Docket No. 04-36, 25 FCC Rcd 7069 (2010).
In response, several commenters acknowledged the existence of testing by mobile broadband providers and third
parties. See, e.g., AT&T Comments at 11 (“Mobile broadband network providers often perform their own testing,
and hire independent third parties, like GWS and Nielsen, to perform testing.”); CTIA Comments at 12 (“In addition
to this wealth of resources available from providers themselves, third-parties also study and report on wireless
coverage and service.”); Nielsen Comments at 2 (“Nielsen Telecom’s annual testing program provides an
independent view of wireless network performance and coverage across all major voice and data networks in more
than 200 unique markets that are home to more than 220 million consumers.”).
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the actual speeds and latency experienced by its subscribers. For example, they could disclose that their
3G offerings typically provide download speeds between X and Y kilobits per second.
We encourage fixed and mobile providers to disclose the source of their performance
measurements and the underlying methodology used to evaluate performance.33 We expect fixed and
mobile broadband providers to reevaluate their performance disclosures whenever they know or have
reason to believe that the actual performance of their services has come to differ materially from the
performance reported in their disclosures.
3.

Extent of Required Disclosures

. Because the Open Internet Order states that its list of
potential disclosure topics “is not necessarily exhaustive,”34 some broadband providers have expressed
concerns that they could be liable for failing to disclose additional types of information that they may not
be aware are subject to disclosure.35 We clarify that disclosure of the information specifically identified
in paragraphs 56 and 98 of the Open Internet Order will suffice for compliance with the transparency rule
at this time.36 As noted in the Open Internet Order, the Commission may determine in the future that
different disclosures by broadband providers are appropriate at that time, possibly in connection with the
Consumer Information and Disclosure proceeding.37
4.

Content, Applications, Service, and Device Providers

. The transparency rule requires
broadband providers to disclose accurate information sufficient for “content, application, service, and
device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.”38 Commenters have voiced
uncertainty about what broadband providers are required to disclose for the benefit of these edge
providers.39 We note that although the transparency rule requires disclosures for the benefit of edge
providers as well as consumers, the Commission expected that “broadband providers may be able to


33 As noted in the Open Internet Order, the Commission will consider industry standards and best practices in
enforcing open Internet rules. See 25 FCC Rcd at 17988, para. 159; see also id. at 17946, para. 74 (discussing the
importance of conformity with industry best practices and technical standards).
34 Id. at 17939, para. 56.
35 See ACA Comments at 7; CTIA Comments at 10-11, 17-18; ITTA Comments at 4-5; MetroPCS Comments at 4;
USTA Comments at 4, 9-10, 16-17.
36 In paragraph 98 of the Open Internet Order the Commission explained that, in addition to the generally applicable
requirements of the transparency rule, mobile broadband providers “should follow the guidance the Commission
provided to licensees of the upper 700 MHz C Block spectrum regarding compliance with their disclosure
obligations, particularly regarding disclosure to third-party application developers and device manufacturers of
criteria and approval procedures (to the extent applicable). For example, these disclosures include, to the extent
applicable, establishing a transparent and efficient approval process for third parties, as set forth in Rule 27.16(d).”
25 FCC Rcd at 17959, para. 98.
37 See id. at 17940, para. 58 & n.188.
38 Id. at 17937, para. 54.
39 See ACA Comments at 9; CTIA Comments at 11; MetroPCS Comments at 5; NCTA Comments at 4-5; USTA
Comments at 4, 8. As noted in the Open Internet Order, the term “edge provider” is used to describe content,
application, service, and device providers because they generally operate at the edge rather than the core of the
network. See 25 FCC Rcd at 17907 n.2.
6

satisfy the transparency rule through a single disclosure.”40 Based on the record developed in the Open
Internet
proceeding, we anticipate that disclosures sufficient to enable “consumers to make informed
choices regarding use of [broadband] services”41 will also generally satisfy the portion of the transparency
rule regarding disclosures to edge providers. We anticipate that broadband providers with consumer
disclosures that include sufficiently detailed information regarding network management practices to
enable a technologically sophisticated Internet user to understand how such network management
practices work, and how they affect consumers’ access to and use of Internet offerings, will not need to
make separate or additional disclosures for the specific benefit of edge providers.42 This in no way alters
the obligation of mobile broadband providers to disclose their certification and approval processes for
devices and applications, if any.43
5.

Security Measures

. In response to the statement in the Open Internet Order that
effective disclosures “will likely include” information concerning “practices used to ensure end-user
security or security of the network,”44 several commenters argued that because broadband providers
employ a host of security measures and constantly update them, keeping disclosures up to date in this area
will be unduly burdensome.45 We expect broadband providers to use sound judgment in deciding whether
it is necessary and appropriate to disclose particular security measures.46 In making that determination,
the touchstone is that providers must disclose information “sufficient for consumers to make informed
choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to
develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.”47 As that standard suggests, the Commission is


40 Id. at 17940, para. 58.
41 Id. at 17937, para. 54.
42 See id. at 17941, para. 60 (“A key purpose of the transparency rule is to enable third-party experts such as
independent engineers and consumer watchdogs to monitor and evaluate network management practices, in order to
surface concerns regarding potential open Internet violations.”); 17938, para. 56 n.177 (discussing Comcast’s
disclosure of congestion management practices); Comcast, Network Management Policy,
http://xfinity.comcast.net/terms/network/update/; Comcast, Frequently Asked Questions About Network
Management, http://customer.comcast.com/Pages/FAQViewer.aspx?seoid=Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-
Network- Management; see also 25 FCC Rcd at 17992, Rule § 8.1 (“The purpose of this Part is to preserve the
Internet as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and
the freedom to innovate without permission.”).
43 Id. at 17938-39, 17959, paras. 56, 98.
44 Id. at 17938-39, para. 56.
45 See CTIA Comments at 15-16; MetroPCS Comments at 4-5; USTA Comments at 12-13; see also Lieberman
Letter at 4. CTIA suggests, for example, that “every time a mobile broadband provider deploys a new technique to
prevent, detect, mitigate and respond to the latest malware, spam, or other network threat, a process would be
triggered to determine whether this new technique must be disclosed.” CTIA Comments at 16.
46 See 25 FCC Rcd at 17941, para. 59 (“[T]he transparency rule we adopt today gives broadband providers some
flexibility to determine what information to disclose and how to disclose it.”).
47 Id. at 17937, para. 54; see also id. at 17992, Rule § 8.1 (“The purpose of this Part is to preserve the Internet as an
open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to
innovate without permission.”).
7

concerned with security measures likely to affect a consumer’s ability to access the content, applications,
services, and devices of his or her choice. Thus, for example, we would expect broadband providers to
disclose if security measures intended to prevent the spread of viruses, malware, spam, or other threats to
consumers also prevented end users from running a mail server or web server using their broadband
connection. But we would not expect providers to disclose internal network security measures, such as
routing security practices, that do not directly bear on a consumer’s choices.
Issued by: Chief, Enforcement Bureau and General Counsel
*
*
*
*
For further information regarding compliance with the transparency rule, contact Christopher
Killion at 202-418-1711 or ckillion@fcc.gov. Media inquiries should be directed to Neil Grace at 202-
418-0506 or neil.grace@fcc.gov.
- FCC -
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