What the FCC’s ‘New Regulatory Paradigm’ Means for Network Providers

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is prepared to impose new regulations on network providers if they don’t take steps to improve cyber security, according to PCWorld. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler said that the agency will work to promote, rather than regulate, initiatives meant to improve security. But if those efforts on the part of companies like AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Sprint (NYSE:S), and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) don’t succeed, then Wheeler says that the FCC will step in.

We believe there is a new regulatory paradigm where the commission relies on industry and the market first while preserving other options if that approach is unsuccessful.

That “new regulatory paradigm” sees the FCC asking network providers to voluntarily adopt cyber security practices aimed to protect against malicious attacks by hackers. According to The Washington Post, the FCC also wants to bring companies together to work on technologies to prevent cyber attacks and protect users’ privacy. Wheeler said that the FCC hopes to develop “market accountability that doesn’t currently exist,” holding communications responsible for protecting infrastructure and customer data system. The goal is to prevent, or at least identify and respond to, breaches like the massive ones that exposed customer information at Target (NYSE:TGT) and Neiman Marcus.

The new initiative follows the March introduction of cyber security recommendations by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The FCC will also evaluate whether network providers have implemented the 2011 recommendations made by the Communications, Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council, an advisory committee to the FCC. The FCC refers to cyber security as a matter of public safety, and wants companies to report threats not only to the FCC, but to each other.