Over the past few years, the data collection and use practices of Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) have largely flown under the radar while large internet platforms and the broader adtech industry have been under greater scrutiny. That respite may be coming to end following a staff report released last week by the FTC detailing the scope of ISPs’ data collection and use practices. The staff report was based on orders issued in 2019 under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act and puts ISPs and large platforms on similar footing, observing that “many ISPs in our study can be at least as privacy-intrusive as large advertising platforms.” In addition, the staff report finds that several ISP data practices could cause harm to consumers but does not go as far as calling any practices unfair or deceptive.

What the FTC will do with the staff report is less clear. The Commission voted unanimously to release the report, which does not make any specific policy recommendations. Members of the Commission, however, drew their own conclusions and articulated starkly different outlooks on the report’s implications. Chair Lina Khan and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter declared that the FCC should play a leading role in overseeing ISPs’ data practices, citing the FCC’s industry expertise and legal authority. Commissioner Christine Wilson, however, stated that “oversight of ISPs for privacy and data security issues should remain at the FTC.” ISPs’ data practices – and the broader question of whether the FCC should reclassify broadband service back to a Title II telecommunications service and re-impose strict broadband privacy rules – are likely to be prominent issues as the Biden FCC takes shape in the months ahead.


Continue Reading FTC Staff Report Puts Spotlight Back on ISP Data Collection and Use Practices; FCC Re-Regulation Suggested

In a strongly worded Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order (the “Order”) released on November 26, 2019, the FCC adopted several measures to protect U.S. communications networks from potential national security threats. Likely coming as no surprise to anyone following the proceeding or current news, the FCC identified Huawei Technologies Company (“Huawei”) and ZTE Corporation (“ZTE”), both Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturers, as national security threats based, in large part, on the companies’ close ties to the Chinese government. Adding to numerous recent federal actions addressing national security concerns, the Order takes three significant steps, within the context of the universal service fund (“USF”) program, to try to mitigate national security threats to the nation’s communications networks.

Continue Reading FCC Prohibits Carriers Receiving USF Support from Using Providers Deemed to Pose a National Security Risk; Further Notice to Explore Using USF to Replace Equipment Already Installed

On October 6, 2016, Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) Chairman Tom Wheeler published a blog entry on the Commission’s website outlining proposed privacy rules for broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The proposed rules are scheduled to be considered by the full Commission at its monthly meeting on October 27, 2016. These rules come after the Commission received substantial public comment on its March notice of proposed rulemaking (discussed in an earlier blog post) from stakeholders representing consumer, public interest, industry, academics, and other government entities including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The proposed rules appear to soften several elements of the Commission’s initial proposal, which received considerable industry criticism.

Continue Reading FCC Chairman Outlines Proposal for New Broadband Privacy Rules

One of the central issues in any spectrum sharing environment is the ability to enforce compliance with the regulations governing operation of the devices in the band, particularly the operation of secondary devices sharing spectrum on a non-interference basis with primary services. This is equally the case when new categories of unlicensed users gain access to share a band with incumbent operators. Currently, the exploration of what spectrum bands the federal government may be able to make available for access by private sector broadband providers and users, whether as a result of spectrum sharing or band clearing, has assumed center stage among policy makers. Last week’s meeting of the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) underscored the importance of rule enforcement when maximizing access to spectrum and the need for trust and confidence among users in a spectrum sharing environment.

At the end of September, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took several coordinated steps to enhance the better operation of a spectrum sharing framework adopted several years ago. Terminal Doppler Weather Radars (TDWRs) maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operate at airports in the 5600-5650 MHz band to obtain a variety of data used in real time by aviation operations, such as gust fronts, wind shear, and microbursts. The band is also used by wireless ISPs operating IEEE-802.11a devices on an unlicensed, non-interference basis as part of the Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) framework.

On September 27, the Commission issued an enforcement advisory (Advisory) directed to not just wireless ISPs operating U-NII equipment in the 5600-5650 MHz band, but to manufacturers, retailers, and marketers of U-NII devices. The multi-faceted target audience serves as a reminder that FCC enforcement actions to preserve the viability of sharing frameworks, especially when they involve unlicensed operations, will not be limited to the persons or entities operating the radio devices.


Continue Reading FCC’s U-NII Advisory and Enforcement Actions Underscore Potential Growing Pains of Spectrum Sharing by Unlicensed Devices

The FCC is seeking comment on Blue Casa Communications’ petition to apply access charges to VNXX calls sent to ISPs.

On December 19, 2008, Blue Casa filed a petition asking the FCC to issue a declaratory ruling that originating interstate switched access charges apply to all calls bound for Internet service providers (ISPs) that are