Jeff Fusco / AP

Major internet service providers are treading carefully around a new proposal from conservative Rep. Marsha Blackburn that would place strict privacy restrictions on their networks as well as the web platforms that use them.

The details: Comcast's top policy executive David Cohen said at a Wednesday event that "we'll see how it plays out" and said it was an "appropriate inquiry" as to whether privacy regulators should treat all web browsing data as equally sensitive, as the proposed bill does.

AT&T's Bob Quinn said that it was "the first draft of the bill, we'll see where it all goes" but noted that the company's priority is to be subject to the same rules as web services.

Why it matters: The carefully phrased responses reflect providers' tricky position in the privacy debate. They like the idea of requiring Facebook and Google, which dominate the online ad industry, to play by the same rules when it comes to privacy. And having federal rules rather than varying state statutes would create fewer compliance headaches. But they don't like the idea of having to comply with regulations themselves.

Key context: Blackburn's bill comes after she and Republican colleagues voted to dismantle the FCC's ISP privacy rules. Those rules did not apply to tech companies like Facebook and Google, but those firms supported the rollback of the FCC's rules out of fear that similar rules would someday apply to them.

Worth noting: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argues every company involved in the internet ecosystem should be subject to the same rules.

But he clarified that he isn't endorsing the the bill: "To be honest I haven't had a chance to review the legislation closely, but just my message that I was trying to convey in there [during the event] is that the uniform expectation of privacy is an important thing."

Note: Comcast's NBC is an investor in Axios and NBC's Andy Lack is a member of the Axios board.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 33,832,124 — Total deaths: 1,010,642 — Total recoveries: 23,507,536Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 7,227,779 — Total deaths: 206,859 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,155,189Map.
  3. Education: School-aged children now make up 10% of all U.S COVID-19 cases.
  4. Health: The coronavirus' alarming impact on the body.
  5. Business: Real-time data show economy's rebound slowing but still going.
  6. Sports: Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak.

Over 73 million people watched the first debate on TV

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 73.1 million people watched the first presidential debate on television on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen ratings.

Why it matters: While that's a sizable audience for any American TV program, it's down more than 13% from the record number of TV viewers who tuned in for the first debate of the 2016 election. The chaotic nature of the debate and the overall uncertainty around this year's election may have pushed some viewers away.

Senate passes bill funding government through December

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10.

Where it stands: The legislation will avert a government shutdown before funding expires Wednesday night and before the Nov. 3 election. The House passed the same measure last week by a vote of 359-57 after House Democrats and the Trump administration agreed on the resolution.

  • Both sides agreed early in negotiations that the bill should be a "clean" continuing resolution — meaning each party would only make small changes to existing funding levels so the measure would pass through both chambers quickly, Axios' Alayna Treene reported last week. The bill now goes to President Trump for his signature.