Wheeler Denies Personal Appeal for Broadband CPNI Extension

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has personally denied a request by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that the FCC extend the comment period for its broadband privacy proposal.

Flake is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, which held a hearing on the proposal two weeks ago.

The FCC's Wireline Bureau on April 29 denied various requests for extensions from cable operators and other ISPs large and small and Wheeler included that in his explanation to Flake.

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The FCC approved the proposal April 1--it is only a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, not a final order. It provided eight weeks for initial comments--due Friday, May 26--and another 30 days for replies.

Wheeler told Flake that the record would not close when the comment deadlines arrive--in fact filings are made long after such deadlines and wind up part of the official record.

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He said the deadline was not a "speak now or forever hold your peace" proposition, but more a way to "focus" commenters' efforts.

Citing the Wireline Bureau's denial of requests by, among others, The American Cable Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association joined with CTIA, US Telecom, and Consumer Technology Association, Wheeler pointed out that the FCC's default policy is not to routinely grant such requests. He said proceedings "often involve novel and important issues" but that there was a need to "keep" proceedings resolved in a timely fashion.

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As to proceeding apace with the proposal, he said: “A timely resolution of this proceeding will be beneficial for consumers and industry alike, providing clarity and certainty going forward, and as such, an extension of the comment deadline is not in the public interest.”

Wheeler said that the NPRM "sets forth a path forward towards final rules that will provide clear guidance to ISPs and their customers" about how privacy requirements under Title II apply to broadband providers.

"So, while I appreciate your concerns, I do not believe a comment extension deadline is warranted at this time."

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.