Broadband Privacy Requires More Time

Also at issue: Still a lot to digest on set-top proposals
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Related: Broadcasters Say Channel Bundling Is Pro-Competitive

There appeared to be a majority of commissioner votes for the FCC taking more time to review its broadband privacy proposal (to read it, go to broadcastingcable. com/May23), a move which drew applause from an INTX crowd concerned about the impact of the framework on their business models.

That came May 17 at a taping of C-SPAN’s The Communicators at the INTX show in Boston, and despite the FCC’s recent decision, at the bureau level, not to grant requests for an extended comment period on the proposal. That would require an opt-in regime for third-party marketing of customer data, although there is no such limitation on edge providers such as Google.

There was also the suggestion that the set-top box proposal receiving bipartisan pushback outside the commission still needs more vetting inside it.

The panel session featured four of the five FCC commissioners— FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had his own Q&A at the show May 18. The Communicators road show for the INTX panel session had an appropriate-enough title: “The Communicators: The FCC Commissioners on Competition, Convergence and Consumers.” Host Peter Slen, the senior executive producer for C-SPAN, did the querying, along with Lydia Beyoud of Bloomberg BNA.

Republican members Michael O’Rielly and Ajit Pai both support giving stakeholders more time to weigh in, but Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel also said she thought it would be appropriate to have a longer proceeding.

Rosenworcel reminded the audience that she had said it was a complex proceeding. “I want to point out that I was the one who pointed out there were more than 500 questions [teed up in the proposal] and I believe this is the kind of subject that is complicated and would benefit from a longer rulemaking,” she said.

O’Rielly then asked why chairman Wheeler had said “absolutely not” to more time, adding: “Why won’t [the chairman] listen to the three of us and agree that we should have more time on such a complicated subject?”

Rosenworcel did point to those questions as suggesting the proposal was not yet set in stone, with issues such as opt-in and opt-out requiring more discussion.

But while Pai conceded the commissioners were having a robust discussion about the topic in Boston, back in Washington he suggested it was pretty much a fait accompli. “We will clearly talk about it,” said Pai, but added: “It is pretty clear from FCC leadership the writing is on the wall.” He said the fact that the FCC would not give stakeholders extra days to submit comments suggested minds had been made up.

The Republicans had the same complaint about Wheeler’s set-top box proposal (go to broadcastingcable.May23), which would require multichannel video programming distributors to make their programming and data streams available for re-aggregation by set-top navigation devices.

Democrats on the panel pointed to the fact that many questions had been raised, with the agreement still a work in progress. Republicans countered that they expected it to be voted on in essentially the same form.

Related: Broadcasters Say Channel Bundling Is Pro-Competitive

There appeared to be a majority of commissioner votes for the FCC taking more time to review its broadband privacy proposal (to read it, go to broadcastingcable. com/May23), a move which drew applause from an INTX crowd concerned about the impact of the framework on their business models.

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