Bad Day for Internet Innovation: FCC Privacy Rules Poor Fit for Dynamic Broadband Ecosystem

October 27, 2016

WASHINGTON—The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a leading science and tech policy think tank, today panned the new broadband privacy rules voted on by the Federal Communications Commission. ITIF released the followed statement from Telecom Policy Analyst Doug Brake:

The privacy framework established today sets a terrible precedent likely to reverberate throughout the Internet ecosystem for years to come. This order represents a dramatic departure from the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) innovation-friendly, flexible guidelines and effective oversight. Instead of aligning with the successful FTC model, Chairman Tom Wheeler takes a long stride backwards towards a Title II of the 20th century. Counting browsing and app history as sensitive data are a particularly disappointing departure from the flexible oversight regime that has helped make the U.S. data-fueled economy the envy of the world.

Let’s be clear: This order is a vehement rejection of the type of U.S. regulatory oversight that has allowed U.S. businesses to thrive online and a sharp reversal from past claims that the U.S. government is committed to using multistakeholder processes for creating Internet-related policies. Instead, it would create a rigid regulatory regime that would limit the use of virtually all data that can be put to economically beneficial uses.

The fact sheet’s false claim of adopting the FTC’s framework without making any attempt to align the privacy models in reality shows what a farce this process has been. The commission hasn’t been seeking informed comment on establishing a balanced regime that secures baseline consumer protection while recognizing and supporting the tremendous upsides to additional use and sharing of broadband data. It looks more and more to be about securing purely political wins, even if that comes at the cost of higher prices for consumers and less data innovation.