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Crowd Surrounds Nullification of FCC Privacy Rules

The nullification of the FCC's broadband privacy rules at the stroke of the President's pen Monday drew a big audience in Washington, most of them either to weigh in on one side or the other of the contentious issue.

The President signed a Congressional Review Act resolution approved by the Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress.

“We welcome President Trump’s action today affirming Congress’ decision to hit the reset button by stopping rules that would have created a confusing and conflicting consumer privacy framework," said USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter.

"Consumers deserve and expect one consistent set of online privacy protections and this action helps clear the way for a more uniform approach across the entire internet ecosystem. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s commitment to modeling the Federal Trade Commission’s well-tested approach is a meaningful step toward a consistent set of privacy protections that are pro-consumer and pro-innovation. Consumers should feel confident that the steps taken today won’t change anything other than clearing the path for regulators to institute uniform privacy rules that will keep their sensitive information private and secure.”

“President Trump’s signature puts the final nail in the coffin of the FCC’s online privacy protections," said Joshua Stager, policy counsel at New America's Open Technology Institute. "Without these rules, broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast are free to sell browsing history and other sensitive data without consumer consent.

This bill was rammed through Congress in a matter of days, despite a fierce public outcry. It’s clearly not what the American people want. A bipartisan spectrum of lawmakers from Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) to Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) vocally opposed this shameful bill. President Trump ignored the outcry just to tie the bow on this gift to the telecom industry, all at the expense of our privacy.”

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, disapproved as well.

“Once again, the American people lose out at the hands of President Trump and the Republican Congress," he said. "The Republicans thought they could jam through this harmful law without anyone noticing. But despite their effort to hide

this latest corporate giveaway, Americans of all political stripes spoke out loud and clear to say that they wanted to keep their personal information private and secure. Despite this setback, the fight is not over, and I will work to restore privacy protections for the American people.”

Congress would have to pass a law empowering the FCC to restore the rules since the way a CRA works, an agency cannot pass substantially similar rules once they have been invalidated via the resolution.

"President Trump has killed any hope Americans would enjoy basic privacy protections online.  By signing the bill, Pres. Trump has allied with the telecommunications and digital media giants who seek to profit from every detail of our lives," said Center for Digital Democracy Executive Director Jeff Chester. "This is a betrayal of the American people and an insult to our democracy.  All the FCC safeguard did was to force cable and phone companies to first ask for permission before they could profit from a person’s most sensitive information—including their web browsing, geo-location, financial details and data on children.  President Trump helped the special interests and abandoned American families."

ISPs argued that the problem was that the edge providers who are the larger players in the third-party marketing of Web surfing info are under no similar opt-in.

Smaller ISPs also had big problems with the data protection mandates.

The American CAble Association pointed to the exodus of those data security regs as of particular import.

"ACA applauds President Trump for signing the Congressional Review Act resolution passed by Congress, eliminating the onerous and competitively harmful privacy rules that were set to go into effect," said ACA President Matt Polka. "These rules would have economically harmed smaller Internet Service Providers and prevented them from deploying more of the broadband services their customers want. However, notwithstanding the elimination of these rules, nothing changes and ACA members will continue to protect their customers' private data while the leaders of the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission work to establish a less burdensome privacy framework that treats all providers fairly in the effort to safeguard subscriber privacy."

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.