Regulating Broadband Privacy Under Title II: What Could Go Wrong?

March 1, 2016

With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considering a rulemaking to create broadband privacy rules, ITIF hosted a panel discussion on the wisdom or folly of sector-specific regulation, how to best balance consumer protections with the value unlocked by data analytics, and the broader context of ongoing changes in both telecommunications and privacy policy. 

As a part of last year’s controversial Open Internet Order, the FCC classified broadband access as a common carrier service, giving itself considerably broader jurisdiction to make rules around net neutrality. With this new-found regulatory authority, the FCC now looks to repurpose old telephone marketing laws for rules around broadband providers’ use of customer data. 

Privacy is an important value, but it should be balanced with other goals including usability, cost, and future innovation. Some advocates seem to think privacy an absolute right, making a rigid regulatory regime more attractive than the current, flexible protections of the Federal Trade Commission. Instead, we should look to embrace principles that allow consumers to protect their privacy, but not at the expense of productivity or experimentation with welfare-enhancing changes to business models.