FCC Dem agrees with GOP: internet privacy rules would benefit from more time

A controversial proposal to regulate the privacy policies of companies that offer internet service could benefit from more time, a majority of Federal Communications Commission members said Tuesday. 

Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel agreed with her Republican colleagues that the more than 500 questions asked in the proposed regulations recently approved makes the issue extremely complex. 

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"I do believe that this is the kind of subject that is complicated and would benefit from a longer rulemaking," she said during a talk at The Internet and Television Expo in Boston. 

The FCC approved proposed rules in late March outlining when internet service providers need to get their customers' consent to use and share personal data about them. Public comments are due by May 27 and a second round are due on June 27. 

Internet service providers have strongly opposed the new proposal, saying the regulations would impose burdensome requirements on their industry without touching competing internet content companies like Google, Facebook and others. The industry had pressed the FCC for more time. 

"So why is the chairman saying, 'Absolutely not, we are not going to have any more time'"? Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly asked Tuesday during a panel with his fellow commissioners. "Why won't he listen to three of us that agree that we should have more time on such a complicated subject matter."

He speculated that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler already knows what the final rules will look like despite the public debate that is happening during the comment period. 

Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai agreed that there won't be a real debate about the subject given "the very fact that the agency refused to give anybody with a stake in this issue a few extra days on the 500 and some questions."

The new privacy proposal stems from the FCC's net neutrality rules approved last year, which reclassified internet service providers as common carriers. Because of the new classification, the FCC took over privacy regulation of internet service providers. That authority was previously centered at the Federal Trade Commission. 

Wheeler has previously ruled out an extended comment period because the rules have been so long in the making. The commission had originally planned to release the proposal last year. 

"This issue has been in the public debate for well over a year, and I think that we have provided meaningful time for comments and reply comments to bring that debate to a point of closure," Wheeler told reporters in March