Pai Pushes for Vote on Broadband Privacy Stay Request

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has not wasted any time taking aim at the FCC's broadband privacy framework.

According to an FCC spokesman, Pai wants the commissioners to vote by March 2 on a request he supports--made by ISPs including those represented by NCTA: The Internet & Television Association--to stay the enforcement of the new rules, which would go into effect on that date.

The order circulated by the chairman grants the stay petition in part (the part is the data safeguard rules with the March 2 trigger).

If he cannot get that vote--if either of the other two commissioners don't vote it, it would have to be scheduled for a vote on the next public meeting, which is not until late March--the Bureau will stay [at least] one element of the privacy rules pending a full Commission vote on the pending petitions for reconsideration consistent with past practice," said the spokesman.

"Chairman Pai believes that the best way to protect the online privacy of American consumers is through a comprehensive and uniform regulatory framework," said the spokesman. "All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, and the federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another."

"Therefore," said the spokesman, [the chairman] has advocated returning to a technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world and harmonizing the FCC’s privacy rules for broadband providers with the FTC’s standards for others in the digital economy. Unfortunately, one of the previous administration’s privacy rules that is scheduled to take effect on March 2 is not consistent with the FTC’s privacy standards."

He did not say which, but a source identified it as the data security rule.

"Therefore, Chairman Pai is seeking to act on a request to stay this rule before it takes effect on March 2," said the spokesman. "If Commissioners are willing to cast their votes by March 2, then the full Commission will decide the stay request," almost certainly granting it given that the two Republican commissioners are opposed to the Title II-linked framework.

If they can't get all three commissioners to vote by then the relevant portion of the rules will be stayed at the bureau level, pending that vote, which the spokesman says was "consistent with past practice."

That comes as congressional Republicans are looking to invalidate the entire framework using the Congressional Review Act and some Senate Democrats are trying to fight that effort.

For reaction to the chairman's proposal, click here.

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.