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FCC pushes network providers on cybersecurity

Chairman Wheeler said that while the agency does not want to regulate cybersecurity, it will explore other options conditions don't improve.

By Ananth Baliga
FCC pushes network providers on cybersecurity
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the FCC, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on May 20, 2014. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 12 (UPI) -- FCC Chair Tom Wheeler asked network providers to work together to improve cybersecurity at an industry level or else the agency will use other options.

The agency unveiled a new regulatory model that will have phone companies and other telecommunications firms, like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, voluntarily work together to improve and increase security against cyber attacks. The Federal Communications Commission would also like to see companies work together on developing new technology that will prevent future cyber threats.

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Wheeler said that FCC is not supposed to regulate cybersecurity but only to create a "new paradigm" that will be more effective and efficient than the traditional rule making process.

"Companies large and small within the communications sector must implement privacy-protective mechanisms to report cyber threats to each other, and, where necessary, to government authorities," Wheeler said. "We cannot continue on a path that lets individual networks put other networks, American businesses and consumers at risk. We need to develop market accountability that doesn't currently exist."

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Wheeler did say that the FCC will initially act as a facilitator, but if there is no improvement the agency will have to look at other options.

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"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," Wheeler said during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

"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?'" he added.

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Comcast was quick to respond to Wheeler's statement saying that company was already focused on beefing up cybersecurity.

"Broadband providers must work collaboratively with government and across various sectors to develop sound industry practices," said Comcast senior vice president Myrna Soto. "Comcast will continue working with the chairman, his fellow commissioners, and the dedicated staff at the FCC to help achieve these important goals."

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