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Free Expression

Joint Comments to FCC on NBP Public Notice #29

There are a number of powerful online applications on the horizon that can provide great societal benefit, including e-Government, smart grid technologies, and electronic health records. These applications both depend for their success on the widespread availability and affordability of broadband and at the same time could drive demand for broadband services. In a virtuous cycle, they both depend on broadband and could help spur further broadband growth. 

However, these applications also pose risks to consumer privacy because they involve the collection and exchange of sensitive personal information and in some implementations will require the development of more robust identification and authentication services. Therefore, their acceptance – and hence to some extent the future of broadband development – depend on the degree to which consumer privacy is protected. To increase consumer trust and truly achieve broadband’s potential, these applications require a robust and comprehensive privacy protection framework.  

Currently, the United States does not have such a comprehensive privacy protection law. Debate has occurred in Congress on the issue and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking a fresh look at privacy. The National Broadband Plan offers an excellent opportunity to give impetus to the development of a comprehensive privacy law. In its report to Congress, the Commission can contribute to the development of privacy policy in the US by highlighting the role of trust in promoting adoption of broadband-based applications and the risk if privacy is not protected.  We call upon the Commission to address in its vision the role of privacy in promoting broadband adoption.