AGs Tell FCC to Back off Privacy Plan

Attorneys general from 16 states have asked the FCC to withdraw its broadband privacy proposal.

In a letter to the commission, they said they were afraid the FCC's new proposed rules will preempt state laws protecting consumer privacy and foster a "byzantine regulatory environment" rather than clear, enforceable requirements that will improve data privacy.

They conceded that the FCC had recognized that states were active participants in "robust privacy and data security protections." But they also said that the FCC may "unwittingly" preempt important state efforts and that the proposal could make compliance more costly and complicated.

"It is of paramount importance that any federal regulations not impair states' ability to vigorously protect their citizens."

The AGs said that the FCC was forcing them to navigate a patchwork of regs and artificial distinctions in trying to figure out what rules apply in a particular circumstance.

They told the FCC that they think privacy interests are best service by existing legal authorities in each state rather than "new prescriptive regulatory approaches."

They said that given all that, the FCC should "withdraw the proposed rule" and engage with the Federal Trade commission and AGs on the best path forward.

Wheeler did not mention AG's, but told a Senate Commerce hearing panel Thursday (sept. 15) that the FCC had been working with the FTC on the plan, with meetings as recently as this week.

The FCC took over authority over ISP customer privacy issues from the FTC--authority it already has over traditional cable customer privacy--when it reclassified ISPs as common carriers. The FTC still has authority over edge provider--google, Facebook--data collection and use.

"We have received the letter and are reviewing it," said an FCC spokesperson.

The AGs signing on to the letter were from Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, and Utah.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.