NCTA: FCC’s new ISP privacy rulebook a ‘cobbled-together approach that abandons principles of fair competition'

FCC headquarters
Image: FCC

The NCTA and Comcast sharply criticized the FCC’s narrow passage of new rules governing ISP privacy today.

“The Commission’s decision to break with the FTC’s proven privacy framework in favor of a cobbled-together approach that abandons principles of fair competition is profoundly disappointing,” said cable’s newly rebranded lobbying org, NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, in a statement.   

“Instead of creating a consistent and uniform approach to privacy that consumers can easily understand, today’s result speaks more to regulatory opportunism than reasoned policy,” NCTA added. "We strongly agree with the bipartisan Commissioners’ comments that the federal government should develop a common approach to online privacy, as there is no lawful, factual or sound policy basis to justify a discriminatory approach that treats ISPs differently from some of the largest companies in the internet ecosystem that engage in similar practices but operate under different regulatory standards.”

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RELATED: Verizon cheers FCC’s new privacy rules, but AT&T warns action will ‘confuse consumers’

The five-member FCC Commission voted 3-2 across party lines (Democrats in favor) to support the new rules. These include “opt in” mandates, in which ISPs are required to obtain affirmative consent from consumers in order to use and share sensitive information.

“For over two decades, ISPs and all other internet companies have operated under the FTC’s privacy regime and, during that time, the internet thrived, consumer privacy was protected, and ISPs handled consumer data responsibly,” said David L. Cohen, senior executive VP and chief diversity officer for Comcast. 

“Although no consumer harms have been cited and nothing has changed in the way consumers expect their data to be used, the FCC’s original proposed rules on broadband privacy were a radical departure from the Obama Administration’s and the FTC’s call for a technology-neutral privacy approach for all participants in the internet ecosystem,” Cohen added. 

In explaining another regulatory regime reviled by the cable industry, but which he’s championing, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “The more our economy and our lives move online, the more information about us goes over our Internet Service Provider (ISP) – and the more consumers want to know how to protect their personal information in the digital age."

“Today, the Commission takes a significant step to safeguard consumer privacy in this time of rapid technological change, as we adopt rules that will allow consumers to choose how their Internet Service Provider (ISP) uses and shares their personal data,” Wheeler added. 

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