FCC, FTC heads pledge cooperation on data rules in suspending broadband requirements

Posted March 03, 2017

The rules aimed to protect personal consumer data.

The FCC's 2-1 vote to stay the implementation of the agency's new data security rules continues to draw reaction from the cable community, including Charter Communications and the American Cable Association.

As part of a pilot project to improve the FCC's transparency, Pai released the text of all six items that will be considered at the March 23 meeting.

The stay will allow the FCC to consider formal requests from trade groups representing Internet service providers to reconsider the privacy rules, the agency said.

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"The federal government shouldn't favor one set of companies over another - and certainly not when it comes to a marketplace as dynamic as the Internet", said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen in a joint statement".

"As ITTA said when the previous FCC issued unduly expansive, new consumer privacy rules four months ago, these sector-specific regulations disproportionally disadvantage ISPs vis-à-vis edge providers. Today's stay will also ensure that ISPs and other telecommunications carriers do not incur substantial and unnecessary compliance costs while the Commission considers modifications to the rule".

But some critics find the rules inconsistent and unfair because other online companies, such as Google, are not regulated in the same way.

Last week, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, in a joint statement with the FCC's Clyburn, said she was "very troubled by the news that the data security protections of the Broadband Privacy Rule will be put on hold", adding, "removing security requirements from broadband providers is needlessly risky for American consumers. It has been a core value of communications networks since the early days of telephone service and should not be removed in the internet age".

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However, McSweeny's boss appears to feel as differently about the situation as Clyburn's does.

Privacy advocates and Democratic legislators are wary that the FCC under Pai, a Republican, may whittle down the privacy rules proposed under the previous administration of President Barack Obama. While these web companies have their own privacy policies, and are bound by a patchwork of state laws that mandate data breach notification, no comprehensive federal law exists that provides a national baseline for their privacy and data security practices.

"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". "Such a uniform approach is in the best interests of consumers and has a long track record of success". The chairman said he plans to return the authority to the FTC so all players in the internet industry are subject to the same rules on protecting customer data.

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