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House E&C GOP Leaders: FCC Privacy Proposal Is Wrong Approach

House Energy & Commerce Committee Republican leadership have told FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that his broadband privacy approach is the wrong one and needs to be re-thought

That came in a letter from E&C Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Communications Subcommittee chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Commerce and Manufacturing Subcommittee Chair Michael burgess (R-Tex.), a copy of which was obtained from the committee. 

They say the FCC is trying to reinvent the wheel, but that the result would be a distorted marketplace with disparate rules. "The inconsistencies in the proposed rules undermine the public's expectation of a seamless and contextually relevant online experience."

The FCC is proposing to apply an opt-in regime for sharing information with third parties that edge-provider broadband data collectors and marketers are not also subject to. It also includes breach and other consumer notification requirements the legislators are chafing at.

They say the new rules will cause consumer confusion. They point out that, theoretically, a company could collect data from an operating system, a browser, a web site and an app, as well as via retail broadband service, but that the Federal Trade Commission would regulate all but the ISP, which would be subject to new and different rules and create an opportunity for regulatory arbitrage.

The legislators echoed ISPs, and others in recommending the FCC adopt an enforcement-based approach similar to the FTC, which, lacking strong rulemaking authority instead enforces voluntary codes of conduct. "Knowing that an enforcement-based approach at the FCC, modeled on the FTC's success, can work to protect consumers without injecting new complexity and uncertainty into the Internet economy, we urge you to reconsider your approach," they said.

The FCC has been collecting comment on the proposal, with initial comments due at the end of last week.

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.