Broadband services

Internet Privacy Rules Take Effect Jan. 3

A new set of Commissioners will hold sway at the FCC starting in January, but that's not stopping the current Democratic majority from implementing new Internet privacy rules passed in October. The FCC has announced that the controversial privacy regulations will go into effect on January 3, although certain new data security obligations will not be effective until March 2, and some customer notification and approval elements of the ruling will not be in place until later in 2017.

One of the main tenets of the new privacy rules is that Internet service providers will be required for the first time to get "opt-in" permission from customers to collect any sensitive information including web browsing and app usage history. The provision is controversial because Internet companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Facebook aren't bound by the same obligations, and thus can make broader use of customer data for activities including ad targeting. (See FCC Dems Pass Broadband Privacy Rules.)

As has happened with several controversial votes, the Internet privacy ruling passed along party lines, with the three Democratic Commissioners approving it, and the two Republican Commissioners opposing. However, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel did specifically acknowledge that there should be an effort to harmonize regulations in the future so that ISPs and so-called edge providers are treated more equally. Currently, edge providers (Google, Facebook, et al) are governed by the Federal Trade Commission , while broadband providers are under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's mandate. Rosenworcel suggested that perhaps an inter-agency council might be set up to coordinate privacy regulations.

For more fixed broadband market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated Gigabit/Broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

If Commissioner Rosenworcel was able to cast herself as a moderating force in the privacy debate, that force looks like it will soon be nullified. While she might have been able to evangelize coordination with the FTC in 2017 had her term at the FCC been reconfirmed, a reconfirmation vote never took place in the Senate. With time running out on 2016, it's now virtually guaranteed that Rosenworcel won't be around in the New Year to see any attempts at forming an inter-agency council initiated. (See FCC on the Verge of 2-2 Split.)

The Internet privacy rules were the last major regulations passed by the FCC before Donald Trump won the November election for the US presidency. His win means Republicans will take control of the FCC as of January 20. Several additional rulings that Democratic Commissioners had hoped to pass before that time -- including those addressing new set-top regulations and business data services -- are likely to be permanently shelved.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

dishnetwork 12/15/2016 | 12:16:28 PM
Muh privacy The internet...is it public, is private? Do we want troll trace to route out fake news on the internet or do we want to stay hidden in the shadows?
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