Boyle, Johnson: Congress wise to reject fake privacy rule, get FCC back on track for Alaska

Editor’s note: Tom Brennan is on vacation.

By David Boyle and Drew Johnson

Those of us who live in Alaska understand there are real challenges to life in the 49th State. We all know a lot of the bureaucrats and politicians in Washington don’t know what that means; they never have. The Internet is making those challenges easier to face, but some people in D.C. are fighting steps to make the Net fair and open for everyone.

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission moved forward on an agenda to promote fairness between all businesses that provide services on the Internet. The move will help Alaska move into the 21st century and take advantage of the many educational and business opportunities that high speed Internet makes possible.

The goal of the policy decision by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is to return how the Internet is regulated to the way it was when our own Sen. Ted Stevens was serving as the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

And we all know that system was designed to be good for Alaska and those of us living here.

But sadly, some progressive special interests from D.C. are attempting to convince us that these changes at the FCC will be bad for us Alaskans. They claim the FCC rules and a recent vote by Congress to overturn unfair regulations means our Internet browsing history is now for sale by Internet service providers.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Browser history isn’t for sale, and it never has been.

For more than two decades, another agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has protected Americans’ online privacy. Last fall, just a week before election day, the FCC pushed through a second set of privacy rules upending the long-standing FTC rules. The FCC’s rules applied harsh new obligations and reporting requirements on ISPs while doing nothing to protect our privacy from the tech companies that actually collect, store and sell your personal data for profit — including Google, Facebook and many others.

In the end, the FCC privacy rules didn’t protect privacy. All they did was set the entire system up for massive confusion by creating different sets of rules for different companies. So before the rules could take effect later this year, Congress rightfully rejected them.

The vote by Congress to overturn the FCC’s absurd regulations means we continue under the privacy rules which have been in place for more than 20 years. The laws Congress put in place and the rules overseen by the FTC have given inventors the freedom to create new products and services while making us safer from scammers and criminals.

That’s why so many people were upset when the FCC decided to wreck a perfectly good system.

Alaskans should applaud Congressman Don Young and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan for helping to overturn the FCC’s unnecessary regulation. Because of their vote, the FTC and the FCC have pledged to work together to harmonize privacy rules so they apply to every company equally. The chairmen of the two agencies have promised to create a “comprehensive and consistent framework.”

We Alaskans understand that fair competition with everyone following the same set of rules means the best result. The clarity of a single set of rules will help to protect our privacy and spur innovations that make life in Alaska a little easier.

David Boyle is executive director of the Alaska Policy Forum. Drew Johnson is a Senior Scholar at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. 


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