Senate Democrats Urge FCC to Move Forward on Broadband Privacy Rules

Six Senate Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) wrote Thursday to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler urging him to finalize rules that would enable the agency to police the privacy practices of internet service providers. The FCC passed its broadband privacy proposal in March.

“Internet service providers are gatekeepers that control the infrastructure that Americans depend on to access vital applications and services,” the senators wrote in a letter. “An ISP has a duty to protect the privacy of consumers who use the company’s wired and wireless infrastructure to connect to the world.”

Democrat Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Al Franken of Minnesota, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin joined Sanders in signing the letter.

The lawmakers argued that for 30 years the FCC has protected consumer information when it came to other telecommunications services such as phone service, and that those rules “help prevent companies with few competitors from abusing the personal information of consumers to gain an anticompetitive advantage in other markets.”

“These rules must be extended to broadband,” the senators said, adding that the new privacy regime is just an extension of the commission’s “duty” following the FCC’s reclassification of internet service providers in their 2015 net neutrality rules.

The rules have been criticized by Republicans and industry members. The House passed an amendment late Wednesday night offered by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on the financial services and general government spending bill. The amendment would block any implementation of the privacy regulation rules.

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