Rep. Blackburn Unveils Broadband Rule Smackdown Resolution

CRA approach has now been launched on both sides of Capitol Hill

Republicans are going after the FCC's broadband privacy rules with both barrels.

Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), chair of the House Communications Subcommittee, has introduced her version of a Congressional Review Act resolution invalidating the FCC's Oct. 27 order. That follows a similar CRA resolution introduced this week by Sen, Jeff Flake of Arizona.

The CRA allows a simple majority of Congress members to invalidate recent regulations, in this case rules approved by the FCC back in October.

Like the Flake resolution, H.J.Res. 86 "provides congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services."

“The FCC’s decision last October to unilaterally swipe jurisdiction from the FTC by creating its own privacy rules for ISPs was troubling," Blackburn said Thursday (March 9). "The FTC has been our government’s sole online privacy regulator for over twenty years.  A dual regulatory approach will only serve to create confusion within the Internet eco-system and harm consumers.  This is a bi-partisan issue, as Democrats have also voiced concerns about the potential for consumer harm resulting from the FCC’s overreach.  We look forward to rolling back these anti-consumer rules and returning jurisdiction to the FTC.”   

The news did not sit well with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who supports the rules and came out strongly against both the Flake CRA move and the Republican majority FCC's decision to roll back implementation of the data security portion last week and review all the rules, with an eye toward repealing and either replacing or turning the authority over broadband privacy back to the Federal Trade Commission by reversing the reclassification of ISPs as Title II common carriers in the Open Internet order.

“The Republican’s assault on the Open Internet Order continues, and the FCC’s broadband privacy rules are their next target,” said Markey. “Regrettably, Republicans fail to accept what we all know to be true and what the courts have already affirmed: broadband internet is an essential telecommunications service, just like telephone service. And just as phone companies cannot sell information about Americans’ phone calls, an internet service provider should not be allowed to sell sensitive consumer information without affirmative consent. I strongly oppose these resolutions, and will fight to protect the FCC’s essential broadband privacy rules.”

But one difference between phone calls and Web browsing is that the information gleaned and shared from that activity is that helps keep Web content free, and an opt-in regime could threaten that business model something ISPs have been arguing as they push the FCC and Congress to roll back the rules.