FCC Says: Sign Up for Internet Service, Don’t Sign Away Your Privacy Rights

    View Authors April 2016

    On April 1, the Federal Communications Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking outlining a framework for regulating the data security and privacy practices of companies that provide broadband Internet access services.  The proposal is based on a statutory provision previously used to regulate the way telecom companies use customer call detail information, and some have questioned whether the agency has the requisite expertise to regulate consumer privacy in the context of these services, as opposed to the traditional protector of consumer privacy— the Federal Trade Commission.

    The rulemaking document is substantial—posing 500 questions by some accounts—and is based on three core principles: transparency, choice, and security.  Ultimately, if rules are adopted consistent with the proposal, broadband Internet access service providers will be subject to a number of new consumer broadband privacy regulations.  In addition, the proposal suggests that privacy rules applicable to other areas—traditional telecom/VoIP/Cable/Satellite—should be harmonized with this new approach as well.  In this client alert, we discuss what led up to the rulemaking, the current proposal, and ways that affected companies can and should get involved to help shape privacy policy going forward.