House Republicans Hit Proposed FCC Privacy Rules

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By Ellie Smith

June 1 — A trio of senior House Republicans is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to rethink its proposed privacy regulations for broadband Internet service providers.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), along with Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-Texas), urged the FCC to move away from detailed privacy rules and adopt an enforcement-based approach akin to the one used by the Federal Trade Commission to police consumer privacy, in a June 1 letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

“Rather than a prescriptive rulemaking, we believe that the FCC should create a more consistent privacy experience for consumers by mirroring the FTC's successful enforcement-based regime,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter called the FCC's March 31 proposal the “wrong approach” to privacy regulation because it would subject Internet service providers to a different set of rules and confuse consumers.

“The inconsistencies in the proposed rules undermine the public's expectation of a seamless and contextually relevant online experience,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

An FCC spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA that the agency has received the letter and is reviewing it.

The FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking that proposed rules for broadband providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. that would require customers to opt in for the companies to collect and use certain subscriber information (2016 TLN 6, 4/1/16).

The proposal followed the FCC's February 2015 reclassification of Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, which also removed broadband Internet service providers from the Federal Trade Commission's jurisdiction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is expected to rule soon on a challenge to the reclassification. (2016 TLN 15, 1/1/16).

The FCC suggested privacy regulations specific to ISPs because they have access to consumers' personal information, but the Republican lawmakers said the proposed regulations do not match up with privacy challenges faced by consumers.

The rules would be to consumers' detriment because they will slow down innovation as companies try to avoid the costs of more demanding privacy requirements, Upton, Burgess and Walden wrote.

The FTC, in a May 27 filing at the FCC, said the latter agency's recommended privacy rules for ISPs in particular are “not optimal” and called for Congress to strengthen privacy protections in general .

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at

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