Just a little FYI: Small town ISPs want out of FCC privacy rules

C'mon Marlene, we don't need opt-in consent, we're locals!

An advocate group for rural broadband providers is asking the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to omit small ISPs from its planned privacy rules.

The WTA (formerly known as the Western Telecommunications Alliance) has written [PDF] to secretary Marlene Dortch to request that the regulator omit small ISPs from rules that restrict the use of customer proprietary network information for marketing purposes.

The FCC's proposed rules would prohibit ISPs from giving (or selling) customer information to third parties to use for marketing.

The WTA argues that in the case of the smaller carriers, which often cater to rural and remotely located customers in the US, those rules should not apply because they would eliminate the methods the carriers use to notify customers of service changes and upgrades. Additionally, the WTA says that the smaller carriers only share customer information with their service partners, and not the advertisers the FCC is targeting with its rules.

"WTA urged the Commission against adopting rules that prohibit carriers from contacting their own customers without targeting of individuals or a subset of customers, for example to obtain responses to customer satisfaction surveys, promote digital literacy events, announce annual meetings, or alert all current and former customers of new services being offered," the letter read.

Rather, the WTA argues, the Commission should allow smaller ISPs and phone carriers to operate with an "opt out" policy that would by default allow them to use account details to contact customers unless otherwise requested.

Without those omissions, it is argued, many customers would end up stuck with obsolete service plans and slower speeds, as they would not be able to be notified by their local carriers.

"Most – if not all – voice providers also provide broadband service, and consumers increasingly expect their broadband provider to offer enhanced services such as technical/device support and managed Wi-Fi solutions that help consumers maximize and manage their broadband connections," the WTA writes.

The marketing issue is one of many rural broadband problems the FCC – and the government as a whole – finds itself negotiating these days. Because cable is far more costly to string and maintain in remote areas where homes are separated by miles, policies on service quality, minimum speed requirements, and government investment that have worked for big cities are now being challenged by those in rural areas. ®

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