FCC Drops the Hammer on Broadband Companies


In a milestone ruling that will bring the US closer to Europe on the issue of online privacy, the FCC, by a vote of 3-2, has approved a bevy of new rules to protect users’ privacy. As a result, broadband behemoths such as Comcast and Verizon will be prohibited from collecting and disseminating (read: selling) information about users – such as the websites they’ve visited, and the apps they’ve used.

Additionally, broadband providers, according to the new regs, must obtain permission from subscribers to gather and give out data on their web browsing, location, and financial information. Neither will they be allowed to transmit health data, financial information, Social Security numbers, and the content of emails and other digital messages without the user’s okay.

Before you get too giddy, though, and without trying to diminish their importance, the sweeping rules don’t apply to the more avaricious online ad titans – including Google, Facebook, and other web companies. These are not subject to the new decrees, because the FCC does not have jurisdiction over web companies. This is a pity, as these are considered by many to be the most annoying ad abusers of consumers.

Some observers say it’s about time that the pendulum swung toward the consumer, and applaud the FCC’s action. “It’s the consumers’ information,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “How it is used should be the consumers’ choice. Not the choice of some corporate algorithm.” Naysayers, and those who oppose the move, will point out that it was just another partisan vote by Obama appointees who invariably vote against big companies who historically support Republicans. According to the New York Times.