FCC, FTC Democrats Decry Broadband Privacy Stay Move

In an unusual joint statement, the entire Democratic contingents of both the FCC and Federal Trade Commission—that would be two commissioners—criticized FCC chairman Ajit Pai's plan to suspend, one way or another, a portion of the FCC's broadband privacy rules that otherwise go into effect March 2.

An FCC spokesperson had explained that the portion of the rules—about safeguarding consumer data—did not square with FTC protections on edge provider data protection.

“Today Chairman Pai has created an unfortunate dilemma: accept a Bureau-level action that indefinitely unwinds key consumer privacy protections established by the FCC last year, or accept four business days (rather than the usual three weeks) to evaluate and vote on a decision that has massive ramifications for the security of private information held by broadband providers,” said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

Without her vote by March 2, either for or against, the chairman's order staying the data safeguarding March 2 implementation can't be adopted, even with two Republican votes. Instead, it would have to be voted at the late March public meeting. Pai has signaled that if the item is not voted by March 2 that portion of the order will be stayed on bureau-level authority.

“I am very troubled by the news that the data security protections of the Broadband Privacy Rule will be put on hold," said FTC commissioner Terrell McSweeny. "What this means, in effect, is that consumers with a broadband subscription will be less protected because the only cop on the beat has been taken off their patrol. In an age of Internet connected everything, removing security requirements from broadband providers is needlessly dangerous for American consumers. The rules the FCC adopted conform to long standing FTC practice and provide clear rules on how broadband companies should protect their customers’ personal information. This action weakens the security requirement guarding every consumers’ most personal data and should be reconsidered."

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.