Verizon urges FCC not to adopt opt-in requirements for ISPs

Verizon met with FCC officials last week to urge them not to adopt rules that would require broadband providers to obtain their customers' permission before using consumer data to send targeted ads.

The FCC voted earlier this month to move forward with proposed rules requiring ISPs to ask consumers to opt in to any sharing of their data with third parties, among other things. Those rules would apply to providers of both mobile and fixed-line broadband services, but not to Internet companies like Facebook or Google.

Verizon said in a new filing with the Commission that while it is in "general agreement with the use of a notice and consent framework for addressing the privacy practices," the opt-in requirements would be unfairly burdensome on ISPs looking to compete against Internet companies for ad revenues.

"We noted that the broad opt-in requirements proposed in this proceeding are unnecessary to protect consumers and inconsistent with the practices of other Internet companies," wrote William Johnson, Verizon's senior vice president of federal regulatory and legal affairs. "The proposed opt-in requirement -- including for the marketing of a provider's own products and services to its customers and for the internal sharing of customer information with affiliates -- would create substantial practical challenges for broadband providers and would make it more difficult for these providers to bring new competition to the market for online advertising."

Opt-in requirements should be limited only to "the most sensitive use cases," Johnson continued, while "meaningful notice combined with opt-out (or implied) consent" would sufficiently protect users in other cases.

The nation's largest wireless network operator is aggressively building out a media and advertising business as growth in the U.S. smartphone market plateaus. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo spoke openly about Verizon's plans last month, saying "we have to be able to have (customers) consume more, but monetize that consumption in other forms."

The FCC announced several weeks ago that Verizon had agreed to pay a $1.35 million fine and adopt a three-year compliance plan as part of a settlement related to the carrier's use of so-called "super cookies," a technology that involves inserting an undetectable and undeletable tracking ID into subscribers' mobile web browsing activity. Both Verizon and AT&T have used super cookies, but AT&T stopped using them in November 2014 while Verizon continued the program and finally allowed users to opt out in April 2015.

For more:
- see this Verizon FCC filing

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