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Hill Weighs in On FCC Broadband Privacy Rule Rollback

House and Senate members were firing off statements Tuesday (March 28) after the House followed the Senate's lead, and along party lines, with a handful of Republican defections, voted to roll back the FCC's broadband privacy regs.

The President is expected to sign the resolution, which also prohibits the FCC from crafting substantially similar legislation unless Congress gives it that authority.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was already planning to try to give them that authority, though that is unlikely to gain traction.

“The Republican-controlled Congress wants broadband companies to use and sell sensitive information about Americans’ health, finances, and even children without consent,” said Markey, signaled he had only just begun to fight. “The big broadband behemoths and their Republican allies have fired their opening salvo in the war on net neutrality, and broadband privacy protections are the first victim. In light of this Republican roll-back, I plan to introduce legislation that directs the FCC to reinstate strong broadband privacy rules.”

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), who voted against the rules, said the right of online privacy had been "obliterated" by her Republican colleagues. "S.J. Res. 34 fails to reflect the concerns of most Americans, who want to keep their private information private. I am deeply concerned that, in addition to the potential for companies to market their products based on this information, individuals with sinister intentions will also have access to our browser histories and log-in times. These are serious concerns that the Republicans have failed to adequately address.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has made protecting online privacy and hammering big media companies key issues in his tenure in the Senate, was ready to roll up his sleeves alongside Markey.

“The interest of consumers in Minnesota and across our country should always come before those of big corporations,” said Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.). “That’s why I’ve long championed an internet that’s open, accessible, and protects Americans’ fundamental right to privacy. I strongly believe that corporations shouldn’t be able to secretly collect, share, or auction off your private information to the highest bidder without your permission, which is why I advocated for federal rules to prohibit broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from misusing customers’ personal data. 

“Today, my Republican colleagues voted to kill these internet privacy rules, which is extremely disappointing. As the top Democrat on the Privacy Subcommittee, I’m going to keep fighting these efforts to undermine the rights of Minnesota consumers because I work for them, not deep-pocketed corporations."

Republican lawmakers did not share that disappointment.

“The FCC’s broadband privacy rules will harm consumers by creating confusion within the internet-ecosystem and we are dedicated to ensuring the most effective and efficient privacy protections possible,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, who was a leader of the House effort to roll back the regs.

"These rules are nothing more than a big government power grab that will hurt hardworking taxpayers, and I’m thankful the House took an important step today in protecting consumers and the future of internet innovations.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) agrees: “This resolution reverses overreaching, shortsighted, and misguided rules adopted by unelected bureaucrats at the Federal Communications Commission that do little to enhance privacy, but clearly add a new layer of federal red tape on innovators and job creators. Once these rules are reversed, the FCC can again work effectively with the FTC to ensure that our privacy framework allows the internet to flourish while truly protecting consumers.”