Telecom industry may see over $12 million in fines

Federal Communications Commission may fine hundreds of telecommunications firms $20,000 each for not complying with customer data-protection protocol.

Stephanie Condon Staff writer, CBSNews.com
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.
Stephanie Condon

The FCC has proposed more than $12 million in fines for the telecommunications industry, after hundreds of carriers failed to certify that they are instituting proper protections of customer data.

The carriers either failed to file or incorrectly filed documents to the Federal Communications Commission that would confirm they had implemented a plan to protect customers' proprietary network information. In the notices the FCC sent to the more than 600 carriers that completely failed to file the paperwork, the agency proposed a fine of $20,000 for each carrier. For the carriers that filed noncompliant documentation, the FCC proposed a range of fines up to $10,000.

"I have long stressed the importance of protecting the sensitive information that telecommunications carriers collect about their customers," acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps said in a statement Tuesday. "The broad nature of this enforcement action hopefully will ensure substantial compliance with our rules going forward as the commission continues to make consumer privacy protection a top priority."

The FCC strengthened its privacy rules in 2007 by adopting additional safeguards, including carrier certification, to protect consumer data against unauthorized access and disclosure. The rules apply to all telecommunications providers and interconnected Voice over IP providers.

The carriers will have an opportunity to show that the fines are inapplicable or to appeal for reduced fines if they are unable to pay the full penalty.