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 established important consumer privacy protections for broadband providers. These are the first rules that outline how ISPs can use and share their customers’ private information. 

Unfortunately, these protections did not survive the new administration. In March 2017, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC issued a stay of the data security portion of the rules. Over the course of that month, Congress passed a resolution to use the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the rules. President Trump signed this resolution on April 3rd, dismantaling the rules, and preventing any substantially similar rules from being created by the FCC.

The rules prevented broadband providers from tracking the online behavior of customers without their permission. The rules also created clear requirements for broadband carriers to protect customers’ personal information, and required carriers to notify customers in the event of a data breach. Additionally, the rules gave customers more control over their personal data—including browsing history, app usage, and information related to finances, health, and children. 

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, the House CRA vote here, and the President signing the resolution here.

You can learn more about the use of the CRA to take down the broadband privacy rules at and check out our interactive CRA explainer here

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.”

Here are the PK experts on this issue:

Be A PK DIY'er and Donate Any Amount


Choose the amount you would like to donate to help support public knowledge

The Latest