Maintaining that the FCC’s October 2016 order which prescribes a privacy framework for broadband ISPs is “unnecessary, confusing,” and constitutes “another innovation-stifling regulation [of] the Internet,” Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced a joint resolution Tuesday which would invoke the processes prescribed by the 1996 Congressional Review Act to nullify the FCC’s rules on broadband privacy.
Co-sponsored by nearly two dozen Senate Republicans that include Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Deb Fischer (R-NE), the joint resolution would also bar the FCC from adopting similar rules in the future that govern ISP collection and disclosure of consumer personal information and other sensitive data. The joint resolution also comes in the wake of the FCC’s decision last week to stay provisions of the October 2016 order that subject ISPs “to a different standard than that applied to other companies in the Internet ecosystem” by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Arguing that the FCC’s order “does nothing to protect consumer privacy,” Flake told reporters that his resolution represents “the first step toward restoring the FTC’s light-touch, consumer friendly approach.”
Former FTC Chairman Jon Liebowitz and former U.S. Representative Mary Bono (R-CA), now co-chairs of the 21st Century Privacy Coalition, commended the joint resolution which they predicted would “give the [Trump] Administration the opportunity to hit the reset button and develop a holistic approach to privacy for the entire Internet ecosystem.” Democrats in Congress and consumer advocacy groups, however, reacted with dismay. As ranking House Energy and Commerce Committee member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) warned that passage of the resolution would “hamstring” the FCC, ranking Senate Communications Subcommittee member Brian Schatz lamented: “neither the FCC nor the FTC will have clear authority when it comes to how ISPs protect consumers’ data privacy and security.”