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By Kyle Daly
July 12 — Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune is backing a House effort to use the appropriations process to block the Federal Communications Commission's move to regulate consumer privacy obligations of broadband providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp., the South Dakota Republican told Bloomberg BNA July 12.
The House passed a spending bill (H.R. 5485) July 7 including a provision that would block the FCC from using any funds to implement its broadband privacy proposal .
Thune said he sees the House bill as the best venue for halting the proposal and hopes the Senate will keep the provision intact when it considers a fiscal 2017 spending measure for the agency. Thune's goal — shared by several witnesses at a July 12 Commerce Committee hearing on the agency proposal — is for the FCC to rework its plan significantly to address stakeholder criticisms.
“I would hope the FCC got the message coming out of the hearing, which is, go back and redo this,” Thune said.
The FCC plan would establish a regime largely based on opt-in consent for consumers to permit broadband providers such as Comcast, AT&T, Charter Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to share or otherwise use certain personal information.
The plan has drawn fire for being out of sync with the Federal Trade Commission's existing regime for protecting online privacy, which allows companies to collect and use account and other information unless users expressly opt out.
Witnesses critical of the proposal said at the Senate hearing that the FCC should rethink its approach before finalizing broadband privacy rules. The agency is moving on privacy regulations after deciding to reclassify broadband internet service as a common carriage service under federal communications law. The FTC, which was responsible for regulating broadband privacy, can't regulate common carriers.
Critics said at the hearing that differing FCC and FTC digital privacy rules might spark consumer confusion and harm the ability of internet service providers to compete with digital content providers in fields such as advertising. American Cable Association President and Chief Executive Officer Matt Polka told lawmakers it might create significant compliance costs for small broadband providers with little money to spare.
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Further information on the Senate Commerce Committee hearing, including links to witness testimony and an archived webcast of the hearing, is available at http://src.bna.com/gJs.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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