Sources: No Timeline for Reversing FCC Privacy Framework

House and Senate Republicans continue to talk about invalidating the FCC's broadband privacy framework, but there is as yet no agreement on action to do so.

That is according to sources on both sides of the Hill familiar with the discussions.

House Communications Subcommittee chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)—who wants to see the rules rolled back and harmonized with the FTC's approach toward edge provider privacy—talked last week of having agreement on a resolution to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to invalidate the FCC order as early as this week, but that is looking like a longer shot.

The sources said there is no definitive timeline yet on when that might happen.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai is no fan of the rules either. He voted against them as a commissioner back in October, arguing that the FCC should instead be harmonizing the rules with the FTC's approach toward players like Google and Facebook. The FCC rules put opt-in requirements on sharing information with third parties, while Google and Facebook are under no such requirement for the user data they collect and share.

Pai called the FCC framework "one-sided rules that will cement edge providers dominance in the online advertising market and lead to consumers confusion about which online companies can and cannot use their data."

Blackburn said last week that if they used the CRA, she would try to make sure there was no privacy gap given that once the FCC reclassified ISPs under Title II common carrier regs, the FTC was prevented from regulating broadband privacy due to its common carrier exemption. "I would think there would be way to work through that so you don't have a gap in oversight."

“Big broadband companies want to mine and sell consumers’ most sensitive personal information without any consent," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who was among Senate Democrats who had strongly backed the FCC framework, of the CRA effort to scrap them. "Overturning broadband privacy protections is nothing more than Big Broadband’s way of pumping up its profits and undermining consumer rights. Without the FCC’s broadband privacy rule, broadband providers will be able to sell dossiers of the personal and professional lives of their subscribers to the highest bidder without their consent," he said. "I will oppose any efforts to roll back important broadband privacy rules either by Congress or at the FCC.”

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.