The Federal Trade Commission is seeking information on the privacy policies, procedures and practices of seven tier one broadband providers it will use to understand how the industry addresses this sensitive area.
To get data on how these companies collect, retain, use and disclose information on consumer usage and devices, the FTC sent orders to AT&T, AT&T Mobility, Comcast Cable Communications doing business as Xfinity, Google Fiber, T-Mobile US, Verizon Communications and Cellco Partnership doing business as Verizon Wireless, according to a news release.
The FTC is taking this step because telecommunications has evolved into "vertically integrated platforms that also provide advertising-supported content," the agency said. "Under current law, the FTC has the ability to enforce against unfair and deceptive practices involving Internet service providers."
After the Federal Communications Commission ceded control of broadband privacy to the FTC, the Senate voted to cede control of broadband privacy to the FTC, which regulates other online privacy, said Berin Szóka, president of TechFreedom, in a March 2017 statement, immediately after the 50-48 Senate vote.
"The FCC's rules were unwise and unnecessary," he wrote. "The FCC will soon return broadband privacy policing to the Federal Trade Commission, where it belongs, like all online privacy. In the meantime, enacting this CRA will simply mean that the FCC will police broadband privacy case-by-case -- just as it had done under Democratic leadership after the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order deprived the FTC of its consumer protection power over broadband by reclassifying broadband as a common carrier service."
This is apparently the first in-depth dive the FTC has made into broadband privacy in the last two years. It's happening at a time when Democrat-led initiatives to return net neutrality and place broadband governance out of the hands of handpicked officials are rapidly gathering momentum.
Earlier this month, for example, Democrats filed a bill demanding net neutrality's return. And separately, in February, plaintiff Mozilla and its many allies predicted victory (and replacement of the current administration's Restoring Internet Freedom Order with its lack of net neutrality protection).
Over the next two years, approximately 60% of service providers (both large and small) will adopt virtualization on a wide scale across their networks, according to the latest survey report from Ovum. Why are providers making these moves? Is there an easy way to start?
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