NCTA asks FCC to dump Wheeler-era broadband privacy rules

FCC
The FCC's current regulatory environment was based on a 3-2 Democratic majority on the agency commission—a plurality that is going away with the shocking presidential win by far-right candidate Donald Trump, and the pending exit of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. 

The NCTA has petitioned (PDF) the FCC, asking the agency to roll back broadband-privacy regulations imposed on internet service providers last fall.

The industry advocacy group argued the regulations were "unnecessary, unjustified, unmoored from a cost-benefit assessment, and unlikely to advance the Commission’s stated goal of enhancing consumer privacy,” in the petition. NCTA is currently attempting to rebrand itself as the “Internet & Television Association.”

The petition came in just under a filing deadline Monday, and was met by similar filings from trade groups representing telecom companies, wireless carriers, tech companies and advertisers.

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The FCC passed the rules based on a 3-2 Democratic majority on the agency commission—a plurality that is going away with the shocking presidential win by far-right candidate Donald Trump, and the pending exit of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. 

The rules are intended to keep ISPs like Comcast, Charter and Cox from abusing the behavioral data they collect on customers as they use the internet.

“Nothing in this election changed Americans' fundamental rights, or their need for privacy,” Matt Wood, policy director for the advocacy organization Free Press, told the Washington Post. “The election only gave more power to the party that would seemingly rather side with Comcast and other cable lobbyists than with their own constituents.”

Given the shifting political leverage in Washington, however, it is “Comcast and other cable lobbyists” who now have the last word.

In its filing, NCTA reiterated its long-held position: The regs exceed FCC authority, undermine well-established Federal Trade Commission governance and don’t target Google and other edge providers, who also handle sensitive consumer information on the internet.

“Congress did not authorize the Commission to regulate the privacy practices of internet service providers (ISPs) when it adopted the protections for customer proprietary network information (CPNI) set forth in Section 222 of the Communications Act. Nor did Congress empower the Commission to regulate the personally identifiable information (PII) collected and used by providers, or to restrict the use and sharing of device identifiers such as IP addresses,” the NCTA added.