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FCC Imposes Privacy Restrictions on Broadband Providers … for Now

As he rushes to accomplish his list of objectives before the change in administrations, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was able to cross one off that list last week. For the first time, the FCC imposed privacy requirements on providers of broadband internet access services (BIAS). The much-anticipated Order requires BIAS providers to notify customers about the types of information the BIAS providers collect about their customers; how and for what purposes the BIAS provider uses and shares this information; and in some circumstances requires customer consent for the use and sharing of this information. This order was an outgrowth of the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, which reclassified BIAS as a telecommunications service and wrested privacy jurisdiction from the Federal Trade Commission.

The rules also apply to voice service providers (including VoIP, wireless and wireline) and change the way these providers can use customer information to market their services. You can get the details on the Order from our Pillsbury Client Alert, New FCC Privacy Rules for Broadband and Voice Providers.

Not surprisingly, the new rules were met with vocal opposition from BIAS providers, and the underlying Open Internet Order already faces a court appeal.  Their long-term viability was further brought into question by Tuesday’s election results. The orders were vigorously opposed by Republican Commissioners O’Rielly and Pai, and have been the subject of frequent criticism by Republican lawmakers. While it is too soon to tell if, how, or when a Republican-controlled FCC will overturn the Open Internet Order, BIAS and voice service providers will have to comply with these requirements in the meantime.