A host of small-government groups, including Americans for Tax Reform and Net Competition, are calling on Congress to destroy the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) broadband privacy framework. The framework was put in place in the waning days of the Wheeler led FCC and instituted a number of rules for internet service providers (ISPs) to follow.
The privacy framework order requires ISPs to get their subs’ permission before sharing web browsing or application histories with third-parties for marketing purposes. The order also includes a variety of data breach and data security notification rules as well as a general ban on using information trading in exchange for services. As the FCC is a federal agency, they preempt any conflicting rules on privacy, data security and data breach laws that come from the state level.
These groups are calling on Congress to utilize the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to review, and if they see fit, reverse government regulations. These groups have sent several letters to Congress urging them to use the Congressional Review Act to rescind the FCC’s broadband privacy order.
“Congress is fully justified in rescinding these rules both because the Order lacks proper legal grounding and because of the need to ensure real consumer privacy across contexts of user experience,” said the groups. That is a reference to the fact that the framework applies to ISPs but not edge providers like Facebook and Google.
“The FCC’s questionable ability to regulate privacy standards, and its narrow view on what constitutes privacy protection, make its rules counterproductive to actual consumer privacy protections,” the groups wrote. “In contrast, the FTC’s approach to privacy does a better job of balancing protection of consumers’ privacy online with economic incentives to innovate in consumer products and services.”
These groups are not only looking to Congress to reverse these regulations but are attacking them from all sides, saying that the FCC’s open internet order, the order through which all of these regulations are stemming, is of questionable legality. If the open internet order is reversed, which is expected given the new conservative head of the FCC, Ajit Pai’s, vocal opposition to the order, the broadband landscape will be upended as ISPs figurative hands will be untied to play on equal terms with edge providers.
Time will tell if Congress is willing to intervene, or if the new conservative leadership of the FCC under Ajit Pai is enough to reverse the broadband privacy framework. If that does happen, it will have a drastic impact on the broadband and ISP space. This is certainly a story to watch.