Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz about Congress using its authority to void new Federal Communications Commission regulations that are supposed to strengthen online consumer privacy. You may wonder, “Why in the world would anyone oppose such protections?”
Amid all the misinformation and scare tactics bandied about lately on this issue, here’s the rest of the story: Today’s internet is more important than ever. Our interconnected world plays a vital role in our business and personal lives. The demand for fast, quality internet service is exploding. Broadband internet access providers like Nittany Media are sprinting to keep pace with the voracious consumer demand for faster speeds, more data and consistent reliability.
Along with this, a regulatory environment is needed that will protect consumers and markets, while not impeding the crucially needed progress. In the final weeks of the Obama administration, the FCC hastily adopted sweeping new broadband consumer privacy regulations. These regulations upended ongoing efforts to adopt a unified regulatory approach between the Federal Trade Commission, the federal agency charged with consumer protection and the FCC. Unfortunately, the new rules, in the words of dissenting FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, “radically depart from the FTC framework.”
The FTC itself stands in opposition to the new FCC broadband consumer privacy rules and now, so does Congress and the president. Further, the FCC’s new privacy rules are extraordinarily rigid and burdensome for smaller operators. Meanwhile, so-called “edge providers” (the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix or Google) are exempt from these consumer privacy regulations. Such heavy-handed regulations cripple the significant advancements our industry is making. It stifles competition, while suffocating smaller operators that do not have the vast legal resources of industry titans like Comcast or Verizon.
In the end, the consumer is harmed by lack of choice, inferior service and higher prices. Privacy and security are vitally important for all of us. Our industry works hard every day to protect our customers. Good regulations are necessary to protect every point of the internet ecosystem, not just internet access providers. Such regulations must be efficient, reflecting a coordinated (not contradictory) effort between the relevant regulatory agencies.
Recently, Congress used its authority under the Congressional Review Act to revoke these new FCC consumer privacy rules. It was taken, as the measure’s author Sen. Jeff Flake put it, “in the hope that the FCC would follow the FTC’s successful sensitivity-based framework.” He added, “I hope Congress and the FCC will continue working together to address issues of concern.”
A joint effort of Congress and the agencies involved will result in a win for the consumer and a win for our industry that is working hard to innovate, build and support the vital telecommunications services that are powering our future prosperity together.
Based in Lewistown, Nittany Media is a locally owned and operated provider of telecommunications and video services. The company has been in operation since 1957.