Internet privacy rules just got a step closer to being rolled back.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday added his name to the list of co-sponsors of a resolution that would undo Federal Communications Commission rules preventing broadband internet providers from collecting certain kinds of customer information.
With a Republican congressional majority and Republicans controlling the White House and the FCC, the support from the highest echelons of Republican power indicates that the rules rollback is well on its way to being implemented. Politico first reported McConnell’s support of the bill, and McConnell spokesperson David Popp confirmed it to VICE News.
The legislation, introduced by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, is among several GOP proposals to abrogate Obama-era regulations. The Republicans are using a rarely invoked legislative tool from 1996 known as the Congressional Review Act, which allows them to revoke a regulation signed into law within the previous 60 days of the Congressional session.
President Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, one of the largest broadband internet providers in the country, is a longtime critic of regulations like the broadband privacy rules. He and Flake have said that the FCC should follow the “light-touch, consumer-friendly” regulatory model of the Federal Trade Commission, and thus allow broadband companies (which hate these rules) to generate revenue by selling customer data to outside companies and advertisers.
Consumer advocates point out that the FTC doesn’t have the authority to rein in internet service providers, and that killing the privacy rules would allow for “unauthorized use and abuse by cable and phone companies.”
“At this point, Flake’s commitment to privacy is as empty as his rhetoric,” said Matt Wood, policy director of the advocacy group Free Press, in a statement earlier this week. “Instead of moving in Congress to strengthen the privacy laws that apply to every company on the internet, these senators propose ditching the current law and letting ISPs profit more easily off of your private data.”
Though Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey have loudly criticized Flake’s bill, it probably won’t amount to much. With more than 30 Republican co-sponsors in the Senate, and now the support of the most important Republican in the chamber, it looks like Flake’s bill is a lock to go through.