The Senate vote on Thursday to kill the FCC’s controversial broadband privacy rules via the Congressional Review Act has garnered cheers from industry associations as well as negative rejoinders from open internet advocates. Of course, the measure still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives and the president to take effect, so expect plenty more opinions to fly as that process moves forward.
Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced the bill, and has been vocal in his opposition to the FCC rules because as he wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial “the FCC unilaterally stripped the FTC of its traditional jurisdiction over ISPs. The FTC can no longer police the privacy practices of providers, leaving us with a two-track system under which the FCC applies its own set of rules for ISPs while the FTC monitors the rest of the internet ecosystem.”
The view that the FCC privacy rules would create inconsistency and confusion across the internet ecosystem since they don’t match with FTC regs also has been part of the longstanding argument used by industry trade groups including NCTA – The Internet & Television Association.
“We appreciate today’s Senate action to repeal unwarranted FCC rules that deny consumers consistent privacy protection online and violate competitive neutrality,” NCTA’s statement released Thursday says. “The Senate’s action represents a critical step towards reestablishing a balanced framework that is grounded in the long-standing and successful FTC privacy framework that applies equally to all parties operating online.”
The NCTA also states that the industry “remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers. We support this step towards reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.”
American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka also issued a statement on Senate passage of S.J. Res 34 voiding the FCC’s broadband privacy regulations.
“ACA thanks Sen. Jeff Flake and his many Senate co-sponsors of the CRA resolution for their leadership role in eliminating regulations that as applied to smaller broadband providers would impose unwarranted and burdensome regulations, harmful both to small businesses and their customers,” Polka says. “The FCC’s regulations were not only onerous, but also singled out ISPs with overly restrictive privacy responsibilities. Meanwhile, the internet’s giant edge providers were exempt despite having access to similar, if not more, consumer data for their commercial use.”
ACA’s statement also stresses that its membership, which includes small- and medium-sized operators, is committed to protecting subscriber privacy. “They remain subject to a variety of state and federal unfair and deceptive trade practices, data security and data breach laws. Moreover, they have released a voluntary set of ISP Privacy Principles that cover transparency, consumer choice, data security, and data breach notification and are consistent with the FTC’s long-standing framework,” Polka says. “ACA members have committed to adhere to these obligations regardless of whether the FCC’s existing regulations remain in place.”
Of course, it wasn’t all applause for the Senate’s move. For example, open internet advocacy group Public Knowledge bemoaned how quickly the Senate came to its conclusion on the bill.
“With less than 10 hours of ‘consideration,’ the Senate took the first step to eliminating a rule that put consumers in control of their data online,” Dallas Harris, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge, says in a written statement. “This vote is a clear sign that American interests come second to those of broadband providers. In a world where everything is increasingly digital, now there will be no rules preventing ISPs from selling your web browsing history without your permission − covering everything from the apps you use to your smart home devices.”
Harris charges that without the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, “Americans go from being internet users to marketing data − from people to the product. The Senate just used the Congressional Review Act to weaken consumer privacy online. Americans won’t forget.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations