SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today called on the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that vital privacy and consumer protections are in place when it issues new ‘net neutrality rules, probably next month.

The FCC is widely expected to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service and issue rules regulating it as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act, rather than as an information service under Title I.

“In regulating broadband under Title II it is essential that the Commission apply sections of Title II regarding universal service, consumer protection and competition,” wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, in a letter to the Commission.

The letter continued: “As the Commission has said, the Internet has been successful because it is an open platform.  It must continue to be open, treating all comers equally, so that ‘a bit is just a bit.’  Reclassification will guarantee this and will prevent the creation of high-speed Internet service for those who can afford to pay a premium toll exacted by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), while the rest of us are condemned to a barely adequate, clogged and congested Internet service.   Consumer Watchdog strongly supports reclassification as the only effective way to ensure true ‘net neutrality.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here:

The key question facing the Commission is how Title II should be applied to accomplish this goal of ensuring ‘net neutrality, Consumer Watchdog said. Sections of the act date to 1934 and are no longer relevant to today’s technology, Consumer Watchdog noted. Thus, the Commission has the ability to “forbear” from exercising authority in areas that are no longer relevant or necessary to achieve the goals of U.S. communications policy.

“Some have suggested that ‘net neutrality could be implemented merely by applying only Sections 201, 202, and 208 of the Act and forbearing on everything else,” wrote Simpson. “This would be a serious error because it would leave the Commission no ability to offer regulations key to protecting consumers and furthering U.S. communications policy in other important areas.”

Consumer Watchdog identified 13 additional sections of Title II that should be applied to broadband providers when they are reclassified.

“Sec. 222 is perhaps the most important provision from a consumer’s perspective. It was explicitly put in place so that telephone companies could not exploit their copper networks to impact people’s privacy,” wrote Simpson. “This vital protection should exist related to private information secured from digital networks. The FCC must adopt regulations to ensure that the integrity and privacy of data gathered on the broadband networks we use are maintained.”

The letter concluded: “The important point is that these sections of Title II offer important consumer protections in such areas as privacy that are a foundation for sound communications policy.  If consumers believe that their broadband provider substantially threatens their privacy, they are less likely to use the Internet.  We urge the Commission to act accordingly and decisively so consumers’ interests are protected.”

In addition to Sections 201, 202, and 208 the following 13 sections should be applied to broadband carriers after reclassification Consumer Watchdog said:

Sec. 214. [47 U.S.C. 214] Extension Of Lines
Sec. 225. [47 U.S.C. 225] Telecommunications Services for Hearing-Impaired and Speech-Impaired Individuals.
Sec. 254. [47 U.S.C. 254] Universal Service.
Sec. 255. [47 U.S.C. 255] Access by Persons With Disabilities.

Sec. 217. [47 U.S.C. 217] Liability of Carrier for Acts and Omissions of Agents.
Sec. 222. [47 U.S.C. 222] Privacy Of Customer Information.
Sec. 230. [47 U.S.C. 230] Protection for Private Blocking and Screening of Offensive Material.
Sec. 258. [47 U.S.C. 258] Illegal Changes in Subscriber Carrier Selections.

Sec. 224. [47 U.S.C. 224] Regulation of Pole Attachments.
Sec. 253. [47 U.S.C. 253] Removal of Barriers to Entry.
Sec. 251. [47 U.S.C. 251] Interconnection
Sec. 256. [47 U.S.C. 256] Coordination for Interconnectivity.
Sec. 257. [47 U.S.C. 257] Market Entry Barriers Proceeding.

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