The FCC Considers ISP Privacy Requirements

Regulation Watch

The FCC Considers ISP Privacy Requirements

On March 31, 2016, the FCC (News - Alert) will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that creates a framework for protecting the privacy of broadband service consumers. This issue primarily stems from the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, which applied customer privacy protections under the Communications Act to Internet access providers. The FCC Chairman released a fact sheet that outlines his proposals.   

The fact sheet recognizes that consumers need more choice, transparency, and security over their personal data. Under the chairman’s proposal, broadband providers would be allowed to use customer data for the purposes of marketing other communications-related services and to share customer data with their affiliates that provide communications-related services for the purposes of marketing such services unless the customer affirmatively opts out.  But all other uses and sharing of consumer data would require express, affirmative opt-in consent from customers.

Further, the proposal would require broadband providers to establish certain data security measures, including an overarching data security standard. It would require providers to take reasonable steps to safeguard customer information from unauthorized use or disclosure, and to adopt certain risk management and other administrative practices. The proposal also includes data breach notification requirements that require providers to notify consumers, the FCC, and certain law enforcement agencies of data breaches within certain time periods.

The issue of consumer privacy has captured increasing FCC attention, and it appears that the new proposal is intended to advance this issue deeper into the broadband ecosystem. Managed service providers that provide Internet access services to their customers, in particular, should pay close attention to this issue as it evolves over the coming weeks and months.

William B. Wilhelm (News - Alert) is a partner and Jeffrey R. Strenkowski is of counsel at the global law firm of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP (

Edited by Stefania Viscusi