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The Fate of Net Neutrality Hinges on the House

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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, 59 U.S. digital-rights, consumer-advocacy and privacy organizations submitted a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler calling for strong rules to protect the privacy and data security of broadband users. The signers, which include the ACLU, EFF, Free Press, Public Citizen and Public Knowledge, also encouraged the agency to work in coordination with the Federal Trade Commission to safeguard users against the unauthorized sharing of their online data.

Late last year, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill welcomed the opportunity for her agency to cooperate with the FCC to create “strong consumer privacy and data security [that] are key ingredients of our data-intensive economy, including the practices of broadband providers.” As Brill recognized, the FCC’s 2015 decision to reclassify broadband access providers under Title II of the Communications Act restores the FCC’s power to protect the privacy of all telecom service users, including broadband internet-access users.

As the Internet’s gatekeepers, broadband providers have access to troves of data on the behavior of internet users. “[U]ntil now privacy protections for consumers using those services have been unclear … The FCC is now well positioned to take its place as that ‘brawnier cop on the beat’ focusing on broadband providers,” the letter states, quoting Brill.

The letter’s signers urge the FCC to move forward with proposing strong rules to protect internet users from having their broadband providers collect and share their personal data without their consent. The signers ask for rules that hold broadband providers accountable for failing to take action to protect personal data collected from users. The signers also ask for rules that require broadband providers to disclose all data-collection practices to users.

The full letter is available at

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“We all know that the internet plays a more prominent role in the everyday lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. Its growth and importance cannot be overstated. But as quickly as the internet grows and changes, one thing that remains the same is the gatekeeper powers wielded by the cable and phone companies that connect us all.

“Congress made strong privacy laws for telecom users, and the FCC’s decision to treat broadband as a telecom service again restores these protections for broadband users. Even though technology evolves, people still need and deserve the safeguards and benefits of timeless common-carrier principles that prevent network gatekeepers from violating their rights.”

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