Internet service providers’ trade associations called on the FCC on Friday for a stay on broadband privacy rules the Commission adopted last year. Approved along party lines and under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, the rules were widely panned by broadband groups at the time.
Among the associations filing for the stay last week were the American Cable Association and NCTA – The Internet & Television Association. The groups also put out a statement reiterating principles ISPs have said they were committed to protecting customers’ privacy online. They include specific policies on transparency, choice, security, and notifications in the case of a data breach, and are based on a longstanding FTC framework.
“These effective principles reflect consumer expectation in stark contrast to the flawed Wheeler privacy rules, which would create an inconsistent and confusing patchwork that will confuse consumers and weaken data protection online,” the ISP groups’ statement reads. “Data submitted to the FCC shows that 94 percent of internet users believe all companies collecting or using information online should be governed by the same set of rules.”
According to a listing in the statement, companies and associations affirming the consumer privacy principles (which are reviewed here) include: Altice USA, American Cable Association, AT&T, Charter, Citizens Telephone and Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, CTIA, Dickey Rural Networks, Inland Telephone Company d/b/a Inland Networks, ITTA – The Voice of Mid-Sized Communications Companies, NCTA – the Internet & Television Association, Northeast Louisiana Telephone Co., Inc. (NortheastTel), NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, SCTelcom, T-Mobile, USTelecom, Verizon, VTX1 Companies, Wheat State Telephone, Inc., Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, and WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband.
“Cable ISPs know well the trust that consumers place in them to protect their personal information. For years, they have met or exceeded the standards for privacy that were established by the Federal Trade Commission and were applicable throughout the Internet ecosystem,” Rick Chessen, NCTA’s SVP of law and regulatory policy, says. “While these pro-privacy practices will continue, we look forward to swift action by the new FCC to reverse its recent decision that imposes new regulatory costs uniquely on ISPs and denies consumers the benefit of a consistent and effective approach to privacy protection.”
Tech Knowledge, which promotes market-oriented technology policies, put out a statement underlining its stance that the FCC rules passed were biased.
“The previous FCC’s decision to adopt a discriminatory approach to broadband privacy was driven by its desire to protect particular industry players, not consumers. The agency’s biased rules inhibit the ability of ISPs to compete with edge providers in the internet data market without providing any meaningful privacy protection,” Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, says. “If the rules were stayed, ISPs would abide by the same privacy protections as all other companies under the Federal Trade Commission’s established legal framework, which protects consumer privacy while promoting competition in the data market. Consistent privacy rules and additional competition would be a win-win for broadband consumers.”
A coalition of more than 15 consumer advocacy and privacy groups, including Public Knowledge, used a letter to urge Congress to oppose the use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to adopt a resolution of disapproval overturning the FCC 2016 broadband privacy order.
“It comes as no surprise that industry lobbyists have begun to attack the strong privacy rules passed by the FCC late last year,” Dallas Harris, policy fellow at Public Knowledge, comments. “As industry very well knows, using the CRA as a blunt instrument on the privacy rules would preclude the FCC from creating any ‘substantially similar’ regulations in the future − leaving broadband customers vulnerable online. The move is also in direct conflict with Congress’ clear mandate that broadband providers protect their customers’ privacy.”
Harris warns “consumer advocates are ready to fight to protect consumer’s privacy online and will not let any attacks go unanswered.”