FCC warns ISPs to improve cybersecurity, or else

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has stated that the FCC will encourage network providers to improve cybersecurity and if they don’t the FCC is ready to 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,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

The FCC is essentially trying to use national security as a way to gain regulatory control over IPSs (which they currently don’t have).

Related: Self-censorship on the Internet

“The challenge is that this private sector-led effort must be more dynamic than traditional regulation and more measurably effective than blindly trusting the market or voluntary best practices to defend our country,” Wheeler said.

“The FCC cannot abdicate its responsibilities simply because the threats to national security and life and safety have begun to arrive via new technologies,” he said. “If a call for help doesn’t go through, if an emergency alert is hijacked, if our core network infrastructure goes down, are we really going to say, ‘Well, that threat came through packet-switched IP-based networks, not circuit-switched telephony, so it’s not our job?’”

Wheeler challenged Internet companies to focus more resources on cybersecurity risk management and on public safety, saying the results of that private effort need to be “more demonstrably effective than blindly trusting the market.”

In 2011 the FCC released a set of cybersecurity best practices developed by the FCC’s advisory committee, the Communications, Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council [CSRIC] and in the coming weeks they will look into whether or not those recommendations have been implemented and how effective those recommendations were if they were implemented.

This is all coming out during a flash point for the FCC. They are about to weigh in on a Comcast / Time Warner merger, an AT&T / DirecTV merger and their controversial new ‘net semi-neutrality’ proposal.

Related: Netflix signs extortion deal with Time Warner

What most people forget when talking about net neutrality and the FCC is the fact that the FCC doesn’t actually have the power to regulate any Internet Service Providers or take action against them.

That was the whole reason they had to rework and reissue their proposed policy on net neutrality – because a judge ruled they didn’t have the authority to dictate anything to ISPs. ISPs currently do not fall under FCC authority.

That’s why they want Congress to expand their power to include the ability to regulate, and if necessary punish ISPs who don’t adhere to their rules.

To do this they can either have Congress change the current laws, have ISPs reclassified as utilities, or, as Wheeler said today, they will just go ahead and do it anyway by playing the terrorism card which apparently gives government agencies carte blanch to circumvent any laws simply by claiming that is a matter of national security.

Guy Wright

Guy Wright has been covering the technology space since the days when computers had cranks and networks were steam powered. He has been a writer and editor for many of the most influential publications over the years – publications that helped shape our current technological zeitgeist. He has lost count of the number of articles, blogs, reviews, rants, and books that he has published over the years, but he hasn’t stopped learning and writing about new things.


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