Wireless industry hits FCC internet privacy rules

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The wireless industry is expressing concerns about Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed new privacy rules for internet service providers.

The proposal would require broadband providers to get user consent for most uses of their data.

{mosads}But trade group CTIA criticized the proposal, saying it would be inconsistent with privacy rules from another agency, the Federal Trade Commission, that already govern companies like Google and Facebook.

“CTIA urges the Commission to recognize these harms to consumers and competition, and instead to move forward in accordance with this Administration’s policy of consistent privacy regulation across the Internet,” the group said in its comments.

“Consistent with the limits of its statutory authority, the Commission should adopt rules based on the [Federal Trade Commission’s] deception and unfairness standard, which has provided strong privacy protections for consumers while allowing online companies to offer consumers innovative services and products that are the backbone of the U.S. economy.”

Industry groups like CTIA and its member companies say that consumers could be confused by having some companies tied to the internet regulated by the FTC and others governed by the FCC.

The FCC proposal would be tougher than the current FTC rules, and industry groups want Wheeler to scale back his plans.

“The FTC rules of engagement have applied to the entire internet ecosystem evenly and been effective for decades,” wrote AT&T Senior Vice President Bob Quinn on Thursday. “As a result of that approach, consumers worldwide enjoy ad-supported free services and the entire Internet ecosystem has flourished with the United States in a leadership position.

“Companies, like AT&T, have simply argued in this proceeding that the FCC should continue to follow that same successful framework so that all providers in the internet ecosystem can continue to operate under the same rules regardless of which part of the ecosystem a company resides.”

But supporters say that the FCC’s rules, which stem from last year’s net neutrality order, are an opportunity for the agency to protect consumers in a more robust way than is possible for the FTC. They also say that internet service providers have access to all of their customers’ browsing habits, necessitating stricter rules.

Friday is the deadline for the first round of comments on the privacy proposal, which is expected to be voted on later this year.


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