FCC dismantles itself along with common carrier broadband rules

27 February 2017 by Steve Blum
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The common carrier rules imposed on Internet service providers in 2015 are now being peeled back a slice at a time by a very different Federal Communications Commission. On Thursday, the FCC voted on party lines to exempt ISPs with 250,000 or fewer subscribers from consumer transparency rules, and on Friday chairman Ajit Pai said that consumer privacy rules would be either put on hold or scrapped by the end of this week. Both the privacy and the transparency rules are descended from the 2015 common carrier decision.

The lone democrat on the commission, Mignon Clyburn, claims that the “smaller broadband providers” that are getting a pass on consumer transparency rules are actually the big incumbents

Many of the nation’s largest broadband providers are actually holding companies, comprised of many smaller operating companies. So what today’s Order does, is exempt these companies’ affiliates that have under 250,000 connections by declining to aggregate the connection count at the holding company level.

Pai’s decision to roll back the privacy rules appears to be his first meaningful step toward handing over some of the FCC’s responsibilities to the Federal Trade Commission, which has general responsibility for consumer protection and also has a court-recognised role in policing cyberspace. The FCC’s Friday press release points to FTC privacy standards as the ones that should govern ISPs, along with everyone else…

All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, and the federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another. Therefore, [Pai] has advocated returning to a technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world and harmonizing the FCC’s privacy rules for broadband providers with the FTC’s standards for others in the digital economy.

The Trump administration landing team that beamed down to the FCC last year included people who strongly believed in farming out responsibilities to other federal agencies, including particularly the FTC, as well as rolling back the 2015 common carrier decision. That’s clearly the direction that Pai and fellow republican Michael O’Rielly are taking.