As they debated issues of interest to the cable industry at the 2016 Internet & Television Expo (INTX) in Boston, Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel joined her Republican colleagues, FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, in urging the FCC to allow additional time for public comment on the agency’s proposal to enact a three-tier regulatory framework under which broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) would be required to obtain subscriber consent before collecting and sharing certain data with advertisers and other third-parties.
Initial comments are due next Friday on the broadband privacy rulemaking notice (NPRM), which was adopted by the FCC on March 31. During a panel discussion Tuesday which was hosted by INTX and which will also be aired on the C-SPAN Communicators series, Pai and O’Rielly lamented the FCC’s refusal of industry requests for additional time to respond to the broadband privacy NPRM. Pai maintained that, “to the maximum extent possible, we should harmonize our privacy rules” with the privacy framework used by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Although Rosenworcel instead recommended that “we should focus on harmonization within the agency” by aligning the privacy obligations of service providers governed by different sections of the 1934 Communications Act, she concurred with Pai and O’Rielly on issues of timing. Emphasizing that the NPRM includes more than 500 questions on which public comment is sought, Rosenworcel told the audience: “I believe this is the kind of subject that is complicated and would benefit from a longer rulemaking.”
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also participated in Tuesday’s panel discussion. (FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, however, did not appear alongside his FCC colleagues but spoke at a separate INTX event on Wednesday.) As she pointed to recent studies that depict certain consumers avoiding online activities as a result of privacy concerns, Clyburn agreed, “it’s important that we keep this working relationship with the FTC.” Clyburn, however, sparred with O’Rielly on the FCC’s legal grounds for enacting privacy rules for broadband ISPs. Responding to O’Reilly’s contention that the statutory provision used by the FCC in the broadband privacy NPRM refers to phone company records, Clyburn said, “a lot of things we’re talking about were not envisioned” when the underlying laws were written. O’Rielly then countered: “if the statute has gotten out of bounds with technology, then it’s up to Congress to fix it.”