Proposed Privacy Rules Will Result In Higher Broadband Fees, CTIA Claims

The wireless industry group CTIA, like other advocates for broadband providers, has made no secret of its opposition to the Federal Communications Commission's potential privacy rules.

The organization now argues that the proposed rules will result in higher prices for consumers. The CTIA's logic, spelled out in a new 19-page regulatory filing, is as follows: The proposed regulations will make it impossible for ISPs to compete in the online ad market, which will "lock them into a transmission-for-fee business model." This inability to enter the online ad market will "ultimately result in higher retail broadband prices."

The FCC's proposed privacy rules would require Internet service providers to obtain consumers' consent before engaging in online behavioral advertising. Internet service providers say the rules will put them at a disadvantage to Google, Facebook and other online companies, which aren't required to obtain consumers' explicit consent before sending them targeted ads.

The CTIA also says broadband providers should only be required to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before intentionally using or disclosing "sensitive" data. "Such an approach would ensure that the FCC’s privacy regime has some nexus to privacy concerns and is consistent with other effective, technology-neutral privacy regimes," the CTIA writes.

Privacy advocates have weighed in against different rules based on factors like sensitivity of the information, pointing out that no one can even agree on the definition of the term. Former FTC adviser Paul Ohm recently noted that the self-regulatory organizations Digital Advertising Alliance and Network Advertising Initiative have different definitions of "sensitive health data," as do Google and Facebook.

For its part, the CTIA says regulators should pass broad rules now, and then figure out the most crucial component of the rules -- the definition of the word "sensitive" -- in the future. "Based on the extent of this record and the clear impossibility of reaching consensus now, it makes eminent sense to phrase final rules broadly (i.e., using “sensitive” in the text of the rules without defining the concept further)," the organization argues. "Doing so would preserve flexibility for the Commission to flesh out its rules in further proceedings."

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