Senate Passes Resolution That Would Undo FCC’s Broadband Privacy Rules

(Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)
March 23, 2017 at 2:43 pm ET

The Senate voted 50-48 on Thursday to pass a resolution that would repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules. The measure now heads to the House.

The privacy rules, passed in October under former Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, require internet service providers to receive explicit consent from customers before using their personal data for marketing purposes.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the Senate vote supports arguments about how the agency should have ensured its regulatory approach matched the Federal Trade Commission’s framework.

“My own core goal is to make sure that that uniform expectation of privacy is vindicated through the use of a regulatory framework that establishes a more level playing field,” Pai told reporters after the FCC’s open meeting.

A major concern for Democrats, other than the move to repeal the privacy rules, is that the Senate-passed resolution would prevent the FCC from passing similar regulations in the future.

Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said in a floor speech Wednesday that the resolution “will tie the hands of the FCC and eliminate its future ability to adopt clear, effective privacy and data security protections for broadband subscribers — and in some cases, even telephone subscribers.”

The lone Democrats at the FCC and the FTC — Mignon Clyburn and Terrell McSweeny, respectively — said in a joint statement Thursday that the resolution “will frustrate the FCC’s future efforts to protect the privacy of voice and broadband customers,” and will create a “massive gap in consumer protection law.”

The office of Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who introduced a companion resolution in the House, did not respond to an immediate request for comment on whether the House is likely to take up the Senate-passed measure.

The resolutions would scrap the privacy rules via the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress and the president to repeal a federal regulation within 60 legislative days of its implementation.

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