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On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 215-205 on S.J. Res. 34 to reject the FCC’s broadband privacy rules issued last October. Those rules required ISPs obtain customers’ consent in order to use and share their personal information. The Senate had already voted to ditch them last week, so now the measure moves on to the White House for President Trump’s signature. That’s extremely likely to occur quickly since the Administration has already indicated support.

The FCC privacy rules have proven contentious, to put it mildly, with strong feelings on both sides.

Opponents have argued the FCC rules would create inconsistency and confusion since they don’t match with FTC rules applied to other companies in the internet ecosystem (such as Google) that don’t have to ask for permission to track which sites users visit. NCTA – The Internet & Television Association referenced that argument in a statement released Tuesday after the House vote.

“Today’s Congressional action to repeal the FCC’s misguided rules marks an important step toward restoring consumer privacy protections that apply consistently to all internet companies,” NCTA states. “With a proven record of safeguarding consumer privacy, internet providers will continue to work on innovative new products that follow ‘privacy-by-design’ principles and honor the FTC’s successful consumer protection framework. We look forward to working with policymakers to restore consistency and balance to online privacy protections.”

American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka also issued a statement saying it is pleased the House passed the Congressional Review Act resolution nullifying what he calls “the FCC's misguided broadband privacy rules.”

"ACA strongly supported Congress' intervention to reverse the harms associated with the FCC's unwarranted and burdensome broadband privacy regulations that singled out ISPs while exempting giant internet edge providers, who have as much, if not more, access to similar consumer data,” Polka says. "ACA members remain committed to maintaining their commendable record of protecting subscriber privacy. In addition to remaining subject to a variety of state and federal unfair and deceptive trade practices, data security, and data breach laws, ACA members have adopted on a voluntary basis a set of Privacy Principles that include transparency, consumer choice, data security, and data breach notification. These principles are consistent with the Federal Trade Commission's long-standing framework." 

Proponents of the FCC privacy rules maintain that they allow consumers to have control of all their data whether it’s considered sensitive or non-sensitive, and it shouldn’t be shared or sold without their direct permission. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged a “no” vote on S.J. Res. 34, contending, “the American people do not agree with the Republicans that this information should be sold, and it certainly should not be sold without your permission.”

“Our broadband providers know deeply personal information about us and our families – where we are, what we want, what we’re looking for, what information we want to know, every site we visit, and more. They can even track us – our broadband providers can even track us when we are surfing in a private browsing mode,” Pelosi says. “Republicans’ use of the Congressional Review Act will do permanent damage to the FCC to keep America’s personal information safe.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) also expressed opposition to the rollback of the rules. “Today, disappointingly, Republicans chose to allow broadband internet providers to sell off your personal information without your permission,” Polis comments. “Lawmakers who voted in favor of this bill just sold out the American people to special interests.”

Not surprisingly given his longtime and vocal opposition to the privacy rules, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement welcoming the results of the House vote.

“It is worth remembering that the FCC’s own overreach created the problem we are facing today,” Pai writes. “Until 2015, the Federal Trade Commission was protecting consumers very effectively, policing every online company’s privacy practices consistently and initiating numerous enforcement actions. However, two years ago, the FCC stripped the FTC of its authority over internet service providers.”

Pai notes that at the time, he strongly opposed “usurping the FTC” and adds “the FCC’s struggles to address the privacy issue over the past couple of years (along with its refusal to recognize consumers’ uniform expectation of privacy) has only strengthened that view.”

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