Verizon urges FCC to block states from protecting online privacy

Flickr via Mike Mozart. Click for original.
(Image: © Flickr via Mike Mozart)

It is not enough that the Federal Communications Commission will in all likelihood reverse current net neutrality rules that were implemented under the previous administration. Verizon, the largest wireless carrier in the US and also a high-speed wired internet service provider (ISP),  wants the FCC to take things a step further by blocking states from imposing broadband privacy protections.

This is a continuation of a earlier effort. Back in March, the House of Representatives voted 215 to 205 to kill proposed privacy rules that would have required ISPs be transparent about the private data it collects and sells to third-parties. The rules also would have required that ISPs make collecting private data, including browsing history, an opt-in affair. Verizon was among several large ISPs that successfully lobbied against the rules.

In response, dozens of states came up with their own privacy proposals, and ISPs are trying to kill those too. Verizon sent a letter and white paper to the FCC pointing out that the government agency has the authority to preempt state proposals to protect consumer privacy, and that it should take action.

"Allowing every State and locality to chart its own course for regulating broadband is a recipe for disaster," Verizon writes (PDF). "It would impose localized and likely inconsistent burdens on an inherently interstate service, would drive up costs, and would frustrate federal efforts to encourage investment and deployment by restoring the free market that long characterized Internet access service."

Never mind that Verizon invested $5 billion in its wireless network in the first half of 2016. Privacy protections will somehow disrupt the free market and ultimately lead to ISPs sitting on their thumbs rather than upgrading their networks, or something like that.

Verizon neglects to mention that it helped create the situation that it now wants the FCC to fix. States would not be implementing patchwork privacy proposals if Verizon and others didn't successfully lobby FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to dismantle the modest protections that were already in place.

Later on in the letter, Verizon brings up its concern that states will again try to implement their own regulations protecting net neutrality once the FCC votes to roll back the rules later this year.

"States and localities have given strong indications that they are prepared to take a similar approach to net neutrality laws if they are dissatisfied with the result of the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding. Notably, the New York State Attorney General claims that 'the role of the states in protecting consumers and competition on the Internet remains critical and necessary,'" Verizon writes.

Verizon is right of course—states will do that, unless the FCC makes sure they can't.