FCC chair doesn't expect to review AT&T-Time Warner merger

28 February, 2017, 00:59 | Author: Priscilla Morrison

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is trying to block a privacy rule which would protect your internet data.

"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", said Mark Wigfield, acting director of the FCC's Office of Media Relations.

"I support the Chairman's [interim stay] proposal to allow the Commission and Congress time to take another look at these ill-considered rules before they have a chance to throw broadband providers' data security practices into unsettled territory", said O'Rielly, adding: " I certainly will commit to record my vote on this item by March 2". Al Franken, D-Minn., said on his Facebook page that "their letter does little to address my concerns and essentially asks American consumers to trust that the combined company won't engage in anticompetitive behavior, raise prices, violate the principles of net neutrality, or decrease access to diverse voices". But Trump's new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has already given the merger his virtual blessing. They were approved by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in October.

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In recent years, the FCC played a key part in blocking the mergers of AT&T and T-Mobile, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable, while also using its regulatory leverage to place pro-consumer conditions on the mergers it did approve - like getting Charter to agree to not use data caps for seven years. "It is the consumer's information, it is not the information of the network the consumer hires to deliver that information", he argued before the rules were passed 3-2 in October 2016, with the two Republican commissioners voting against.

Pai's reasoning is that the rules aren't "consistent with [Federal Trade Commission] privacy standards", arguing that the privacy regime should apply to broadband providers as well as websites. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission's new leadership, however, that deadline will now be extended indefinitely, and we have no idea if or when those rules will be enacted. "A CRA resolution of disapproval therefore would not leave ISP customers' privacy rights unprotected", he said. This could include web-browsing history, geolocation, and financial details with any third parties.

"That is the regulatory hook for FCC review", he said, referencing the sale of wireless licenses. But even without the vote, the FCC staff can hit pause on the data security part of the rules until the full FCC vote on the pending petitions to reconsider the broader privacy rules. That response to Mr. Wheeler demonstrates that Mr. Pai has the sense to defend consumer choice and innovative competition between service providers, and the independence to challenge authority when necessary. For data breaches affecting fewer than 5,000 customers, the companies must notify the FCC at the same time they notify consumers.

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