PhotoBroadband carriers aren't happy about it but the Federal Communications Commission has voted to craft new privacy rules on how Internet service providers can use customer data.

Websites and other services that use the Internet are already required by the Federal Trade Commission to safeguard consumer identities. The FCC rule would apply to carriers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

The new rules would require Internet service providers to gain customer permission before using or sharing their data. "It's the consumers' information," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "and the consumer should have the right to determine how it's used."

The service providers don't see it that way. USTelecom, a trade group, took to Twitter to denounce the rules as a "naked power grab."


But Meredith Rose, staff attorney at Public Knowledge, said the proposed rules would be "a step forward to protecting consumers’ economic and dignitary rights in their own data."

Rose said that without such rules, "consumers face a very real threat of having personal data exposed, sold to third parties without their knowledge, or misused in other fashions." 

Lifeline subsidy

The commission also voted to extend a monthly $9.25 subsidy to low-income Americans to help them afford broadband service. It's an effort to close the "digital divide."

"There remains a digital divide that keeps a significant number of Americans from participating" in the many benefits of the Internet, Wheeler, a Democrat, said.

The Lifeline program previously was used to subsidize telephone service for people who can't afford it. Consumers will now be able to apply the subsidy to wired or wireless broadband service, including bundled voice-and-data packages.

It's expected to be available by Dec. 1.

Netflix throttle

The commission also took note of the recent controversy involving Netflix, which has been throttling its own video feeds on mobile networks such as Verizon and AT&T.

Wheeler said the action does not violate net neutrality. "It is outside of open Internet. We do not regulate edge providers," Wheeler said. 

There is nothing new about Netflix' action. It has long said that it adjusts the download speed of its streaming video feeds to suit the capability of the end user's network. It's intended to help wireless users avoid blowing through their monthly data caps. 

Slowing the feed can also smooth out bumps for users on slow or congested networks whose feeds would otherwise be interrupted for buffering.

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