FCC’s Rosenworcel Backs More Time for Comment on Privacy Rules

Jessica Rosenworcel

The Federal Communications Commission frequently splits along party lines these days. But there’s a bipartisan majority for one idea: giving people more time to weigh in on proposed privacy rules for broadband providers. 

The commission adopted the proposal in March on a 3-2 party-line vote. Last month, the agency denied requests from several groups, including the Association of National Advertisers and the American Cable Association, for an extension past the June 27 deadline for reply comments on the proposal, saying the time allowed should be enough for all stakeholders to weigh in. 

But Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said May 17 during an Internet & Television Expo panel discussion in Boston that the commission should allow more time for comments on its controversial proposal to establish privacy rules for broadband providers. 

Noting that the agency’s proposal contains more than 500 questions, Rosenworcel said, “I do believe this is the kind of subject that’s complicated and would benefit from more time.”  

GOP Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, appearing on the panel along with Rosenworcel, also said the agency should allow more time for comments. 

O’Rielly asked rhetorically why, with a majority of commissioners supporting a comment period extension, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wouldn’t grant it. He and Pai suggested it’s because Wheeler intends to move forward with the proposal as outlined in the commission’s proposal, without material changes.  

The trio, as well as Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, their fellow panelist, stuck to party lines when it came to their positions on the privacy proposal. Pai and O’Rielly, who voted against it, said the proposed rules would go beyond the FCC’s authority. Clyburn and Rosenworcel, who both voted for it, said the FCC should evolve in interpreting its authority, just as technology evolves, and that it’s important to protect consumer privacy in an increasingly information-rich world.