Broadband Privacy

When the Federal Communications Commission passed the Open Internet Order in 2015, establishing the strongest net neutrality rules to date, broadband internet was reclassified from an information service to a telecommunications service. Broadband providers are now considered “common carriers,” which means the FCC is responsible for regulatory oversight, including privacy rules, under the Communications Act, just as they are for telephone services.

The FCC, as mandated by Congress, has successfully overseen consumer privacy for the telephone network for decades, and it was now tasked with establishing privacy rules for Internet Service Providers.

On October 26th, the FCC passed a proposal that establishes important consumer privacy protections for broadband providers. These are the first rules that outline how ISPs can use and share their customers’ private information. 

The rules prevent broadband providers from tracking the online behavior of customers without their permission. The rules also create clear requirements for broadband carriers to protect customers’ personal information, and require carriers to notify customers in the event of a data breach.

The rules give customers more control over their personal data—including browsing history, app usage, and information related to finances, health, and children. ISPs can still use customer data for service-related uses, but they should not be able to use your data to build and sell massive, detailed dossiers without your knowledge.

There have been several attacks on the rules under the current administration. In March 2017, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC issued a stay of the data security portion of the rules. During that same month, the Senate voted 50-48 to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn the rules. You can view our interactive explainer of the CRA here

Public Knowledge is an advocate for putting broadband customers in the driver’s seat of their personal information. Customers shouldn’t have to choose between internet access and protecting their most sensitive data.

You can view our press release on the Senate CRA vote here

You can learn more about the use of the CRA to take down the broadband privacy rules at

You can check out our Opposition to Petitions for Reconsideration of the rules, filed with the FCC in March 2017, here

You can read our press release on the new FCC privacy rules here

You can read our comment submissions to the FCC for the first and second rounds of public comment periods leading up to the proposal vote.

In February 2016, Public Knowledge published a white paper entitled “Protecting Privacy, Promoting Competition.”

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