Cable companies lag on releasing government data transparency reports

By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite more and more Internet companies publishing how they handle government surveillance requests, some companies are hardly aware of the trend.

TRANSPARENCY: Small and medium-sized cable Internet companies are lagging in releasing law enforcement user data requests.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable, currently facing considerable public disdain over a likely merger, recently joined larger telecom and Internet companies in publishing reports on law enforcement agencies’ requests for user and subscriber data.

When asked by Watchdog.org on Wednesday during a media luncheon at the ACA Summit, an annual gathering of cable industry professionals in Washington, D.C., other top cable executives confirmed receiving such requests from law enforcement agencies as well.

“We do those all of the time,” said Robert Gessner, president of MCTV, a family-owned and operated broadband company in Ohio.

Colleen Abdoulah, chairwoman of the board of the American Cable Association and chair of the board of WOW! Internet, Cable, and Phone, also acknowledged receiving similar requests.

ACA, a trade association representing small and medium-sized cable companies, organized the conference and the luncheon.

Discussions at the conference and the luncheon were focused mainly on the Federal Communications Commission’s recent ruling to ban broadcaster collusion, as well as how consumer behavior was influencing changing business models employed by cable companies.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, during his talk at the conference Wednesday, also discussed net neutrality and rural broadband deployment.

When asked about whether the cable companies planned to release transparency reports similar to that of their larger competitors, however, Gessner and Abdoulah’s answers were mixed.

“I’m not familiar with the reports that they’ve released,” said Gessner.

“We absolutely could,” said Abdoulah.

According to Ross Lieberman, vice president of government affairs at ACA, law enforcement and intelligence agency transparency is primarily a discussion taking place between the federal government and larger companies.

“We haven’t been a part of those discussions that the bigger guys have with the White House,” Lieberman said.

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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