By Ellen Blackler, AT&T Executive Director – Public Policy

I hope I’m not jinxing it by mentioning it, but there is a quiet and promising consensus emerging.  And, no, I’m not referring to the long-running debate surrounding the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding…We won’t know how that story goes until next Tuesday.

What I’m referring to is the consensus around, of all things, the best way to regulate privacy on the internet.   There were a few glimmers of it in the FTC’s dialogue on online privacy leading up to its report released earlier this month.  It picked up some speed during the comment period for the NTIA’s Green Paper and really takes off today with that paper’s release.  I’ll save you the time of reading the nearly 80-page report by bottom-lining it for you.  NTIA puts great emphasis on a new kind of code of conduct, developed with input from consumers, industry and government stakeholders, and robustly enforced with government oversight.

It’s repeated enough to be cliché but it’s true – the internet and its business models are complex, still developing and subject to quick changes.  There is just no way that prescriptive rules can keep up with the agility of the internet.  Detailed rules will inevitably create barriers (or arbitrage opportunity) for some innovation, which, almost by definition, were not anticipated.

We need to find new models to protect consumers that are as flexible and innovative as the internet itself.  NTIA seems to be on the right track.

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