Blackburn: Broadband Privacy Rule Rollback Could Start Soon

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, says there could be a resolution on rolling back the FCC's broadband privacy framework as early as Feb. 13.

"We are talking and working with the Senate on this," she said in an interview on C-SPAN's Communicators. "I think using the CRA [the Congressional Review Act to invalidate the rulemaking] is fine. That would be the most expedient way to address the concerns and we are working with the Senate to make sure we can do that."

She said that resolution could possibly come as early as next week.

Blackburn said that if they used the CRA, she would try to make sure that there was no privacy gap given that once the FCC reclassified ISPs under Title II common carrier regs, the FTC was prevented from regulating broadband privacy due to its common carrier exemption. "I would think there would be a way to work through that so you don't have a gap in oversight."

The congresswoman, who was cochair of a congressional privacy working group, said she thought the FCC had overstepped its boundaries by reclassifying ISPs and subsuming privacy oversight.

Related: Blackburn Schedules FCC Reauthorization Hearing

Blackburn said she would like to see more attention to spectrum management at the FCC in the post-auction period. The FCC is currently winding down, or trying to, its spectrum auction. "An auction takes place and then that is off the to-do list," she suggested.

She cited the Internet of Things in saying how important spectrum management is and said that was tied into broadband deployment, which is another priority of the subcommittee.

As Congress works on reauthorizing the FCC—which hasn't happened since the early 1990s—Blackburn said "it is time to look at their structure," particularly while there is a hiring freeze in place. President Donald Trump ordered a freeze on new hires (Blackburn was a member of the Trump transition executive committee).

She said she would like to see a "revitalization" of the FCC's regional offices "so that if someone has a problem, they're not finding themselves having to call Washington, D.C., and wait for someone to get around to calling them back and then waiting longer for someone to come out to them."

The new FCC chairman clearly has a fan in Blackburn, who shares many of her interests or, in the case of preserving Title II, disinterests. 

"I really appreciated chairman [Ajit] Pai," she said. "I have had a good working relationship with him through the years. He is not a fan of net neutrality, nor am I. He is not a fan of Title II reclassification, nor am I. So, I think I am going to get along just fine with chairman Pai."

Asked about the FCC being short-handed—three members instead of five and down a Democratic and Republican member—she said that those three were all able folks and that the FCC seemed to be initially focusing on process reforms—Pai has already instituted a half dozen. "They're not sitting around waiting or using it as an excuse."

She said she had been talking with the commission on a regular basis and that Pai had been on the Hill to meet with members this week. "I think that is healthy for the process."

She also praised Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn as a "good voice."

Blackburn said that as a member of the transition team she was not asked for input on a third Republican commissioner. If asked she would have some thoughts, but did not volunteer them.

The Blackburn interview will air at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 on C-SPAN and Feb. 13 on C-SPAN at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

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.