On Wednesday, the FCC voted 2-1 along party lines to issue a temporary stay of a data security regulation just a day ahead of when the rules were slated to go into effect. Many broadband industry trade groups have been critical of the regulation, and argued that it would subject internet service providers (ISPs) to a different standard than that applied to other companies in the internet ecosystem by the Federal Trade Commission. Previously, broadband providers released a voluntary set of “ISP Privacy Principles” that fall more in line with the FTC’s privacy framework.
The stay will reportedly remain in place until the Commission is able to act on pending petitions for reconsideration. According to an FCC statement, it will work with the FTC “to create a comprehensive and consistent framework for protecting Americans’ online privacy.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen issued a joint statement saying that both agencies are committed to protecting the online privacy of Americans, but they believe the best way to do that is through a comprehensive and consistent framework. “After all, Americans care about the overall privacy of their information when they use the internet, and they shouldn’t have to be lawyers or engineers to figure out if their information is protected differently depending on which part of the internet holds it,” their statement reads.
“That’s why we disagreed with the FCC’s unilateral decision in 2015 to strip the FTC of its authority over broadband providers’ privacy and data security practices, removing an effective cop from the beat,” Pai and Ohlhausen continue. “The FTC has a long track record of protecting consumers’ privacy and security throughout the Internet ecosystem. It did not serve consumers’ interests to abandon this longstanding, bipartisan, successful approach.”
Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steven K. Berry released a statement agreeing with the stay. “Broadband internet access (BIAS) providers, especially smaller providers, should not be held to different standards than others in the internet ecosystem,” Berry says. “CCA appreciates that all FCC Commissioners and the Chairman acted in advance of the data security regulations going into effect, despite their policy perspective. This stay will allow the FCC and the FTC to take the appropriate time to harmonize any FCC privacy rules with the FTC’s framework and allow innovative small businesses to focus on what they do best – serving their customers – rather than complying with undue, inconsistent regulatory requirements.”
Jake Ward, Developers Alliance President and CEO, also used a statement to cheer the FCC’s move. “The developers who create and facilitate our internet experiences are thriving under the light-touch regulatory framework enforced by the Federal Trade Commission,” he says. “As we said in July, the FCC’s new rules stray from this well established and successful privacy regime. Adding another cop, with a different set of rules, to the privacy beat is unnecessary, confusing, and a surefire way to stifle innovation and drive up costs.”
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn who voted against the stay issued an “unequivocal dissent” stressing that the FCC should be the “cop on the beat” when it comes to ensuring consumer protections, and she believes the move is leaving broadband customers without assurances that providers will keep their data secure. She also charges it is “a proxy for gutting the Commission’s duly adopted privacy rules — and it does so with very little finesse.”
Clyburn notes that while the recent Order alleges significant harm to service providers, there is no proof cited. “The outcome of this Order is not relief of regulatory burdens, as is evidenced by providers seeking a stay using the text of the FCC’s rule as the basis for their voluntary code of conduct,” Clyburn’s statement reads. “What it actually does is permit providers to shift the costs for corporate negligence onto private citizens.”
Statements released by the FCC about the stay are available here. Pai and Ohlhausen’s joint statement is available here.
Filed Under: Industry regulations