NCTA calls FCC broadband privacy NPRM 'unworkable, counterproductive and harmful'

The NCTA once again sharply criticized an FCC proposal to impose new privacy regulations on internet service providers.

"While a handful of parties with no actual experience in operating networks or provisioning service to subscribers support the rules as proposed, the overwhelming consensus among the parties filing in this proceeding is that the Commission's proposal is unworkable, counterproductive, harmful to consumers and competition, and contrary to law," the National Cable Telecommunications Association said in reply comments to the FCC NPRM.

The cable industry lobbying organization said the FCC proposal represents a "radical departure" to what it describes as a currently successful regulatory regime imposed by the Federal Trade Commission. 

"This is confirmed by submissions from FTC staff, current and former commissioners, and the overwhelming majority of commenters," NCTA said. "FTC staff dubs the Commission's proposal 'not optimal' and in conflict with the 'different expectations and concerns that consumers have for sensitive and non-sensitive data."

"FTC staff raises over two-dozen concerns with the proposed rules, and recommends substantial alterations to the major components of the Commission's regime, including the scope of data covered by the rules, first-party marketing, opt-in/opt-out choice architecture, data security requirements, data breach obligations, and the method of soliciting choice," NCTA added. 

The NCTA's reply also re-stated a crucial component of opposition argument against the NPRM — that edge providers like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) represent more of a threat to privacy than ISPs do.

"The record simply cannot support a conclusion that ISPs should be subject to singularly onerous rules because they are somehow uniquely situated," NCTA said. "To the contrary, the record demonstrates not only that ISP visibility over broadband customer data is rapidly shrinking, but also that ISPs have heightened incentives to effectively safeguard their customers' information and a track record of responsible conduct under the FTC framework."

The American Cable Association, meanwhile, delivered a similar rebuttal to the FCC: "The FCC's proposed rules would needlessly increase costs and burdens for broadband providers, particularly smaller ones, with little to no consumer benefit, including because they fail to cover all actors in the Internet ecosystem," said Matthew Polka, president and CEO of the ACA, in a statement. "To avoid these problems, the FCC should harmonize any rules with the FTC's more flexible and less onerous approach, which applies to all actors alike and has produced demonstrable benefits for consumers for decades."

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