ISPs Target Broadband Privacy Regs

Petitions began to mount Tuesday, the deadline for challenging the FCC's partisan Oct. 27 order creating a new broadband privacy regulatory regime.

Joining USTelecom, and in advance of a planned petition from NCTA: The Internet and Television Association, ITTA – The voice of mid-size communications companies, asked the FCC to rethink that decision.

The deadline coincidentally fell on the day FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler lost his Democratic majority with the forced exit of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel at the seating of a new Congress.

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ITTA stated its challenge plainly: "[T]he Commission lacks the requisite legal authority for the measures adopted in the Order," it said.

Those measures are to require ISPs to get their subs' permission (notice and choice) before sharing web browsing and app use histories with third parties for marketing and other purposes, as well as instituting data security and data breach notification rules as well as a prohibition on making info sharing a quid pro quo for service, and a case-by-case look at offering incentives to share info. The order also preempts state privacy, data security and data breach laws that conflict with the new rules.

CCA signaled it understands the important values the order targets, but does not agree with the approach, and does not think the FCC has the authority to regulate in the space as all.

"ITTA acknowledges that the Order’s measures are well-intentioned in that consumer choice in the use and dissemination of private information by their service providers is inarguably an important and worthy policy goal. Despite the best of intentions, however, the Commission simply does not have the imprimatur to bestow upon itself the statutory authority to adopt the Order’s requirements.”

Only Congress may do that – but it did not.

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.