On December 19, 2014, the FCC published Chairman Thomas Wheeler‘s response to Senator Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) letter regarding the FCC’s recent proposed $10 million fine against two telecom companies.

In the response, Chairman Wheeler reiterated the need for FCC action in this area and explained that consumers regularly entrust their most personal, confidential, and sensitive information to communication networks and service providers.  The Chairman went on to state that the FCC has a responsibility to ensure that service providers and network operators are taking reasonable steps to “honor the public trust, and to protect consumers from harm caused by violations of the Communications Act.”

With some of the strongest language to date concerning the FCC’s role in this area, the Chairman said:

As the nation’s expert agency on communications networks, the Commission cannot – and will not – stand idly by when a service provider’s lax security practices expose the personal information of hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Americans to identity theft and fraud.  I assure you that the Commission will exercise its full authority against companies that fail to meet their statutory requirements of safeguarding the personal information of consumers.

In light of the prior FCC action and the Chairman’s most recent statements, service providers and network operators must ensure their data security practices are up to date and they are appropriately safeguarding the personal information of consumers with which they are entrusted.