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Senate committee recommends ISP registry, limits on how online personal data can be used

The Senate’s special committee on net neutrality released its final report. It calls to promote net neutrality through state government contracts. PHOTO BY MAISIE MANSFIELD-GREENWALD/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Senate Committee on Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection proposed protections for Massachusetts media consumers, in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality.

According to the report, the proposed legislation would mandate absolute transparency regarding network management practices through a statewide internet service provider registry and protect consumer privacy by limiting how internet service providers can use personal data.

Kade Crockford, Technology for Liberty program director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said in a statement that she is relieved to see consumers across the United States becoming aware of how personal information can be sold to the highest bidder online and wind up in dangerous hands.

“We face these types of attacks on personal privacy and democracy, not only from companies like Facebook and Google, which can access large quantities of information about their users, but from internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon, which can collect far more detailed information about millions of people throughout Massachusetts and nationwide — whether or not they use Google or Facebook,” Crockford said.

Crockford thanked the Senate committee on behalf of the ACLU’s members and supporters for its efforts to advance internet freedom and personal privacy for Massachusetts residents.

“Our personal privacy and our democracy are at stake — but lawmakers have a historic opportunity to act now on net neutrality and consumer internet privacy,” Crawford said in the statement. “Massachusetts is a leader in digital technology, and our consumer protection laws must reflect that.”

The proposed legislation permits the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable to conduct verification tests, requiring that internet service providers “make the same net neutrality disclosures” they previously made to the FCC proceeding the net neutrality repeal.

Timothy Peters, 38, of Kenmore, said he thinks it is important that Massachusetts holds internet service providers to net neutrality standards.

“In the absence of net neutrality on the federal level, I’m glad to see that Massachusetts is still making sure service providers are held accountable and restricted from sharing people’s personal information for profit,” Peters said.

Sen. Barbara L’Italien, a member of the Senate Committee on Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection, told The Daily Free Press that the FCC’s net neutrality repeal is an issue that affects virtually every digital media consumer in the Commonwealth. With everything the internet has to offer, access to it allows ensures equality of information, she said.

“Since we are once again left scrambling to act in the face of federal failure, this bill is a step in the right direction to assure that all Bay Staters can use the internet freely and without restriction,” L’Italien said. “When you increase transparency, and hold providers to a greater level of accountability, consumers win.”

The most important provision of the proposed legislation, L’Italien said, comes from a bill she filed, which bans internet service providers from violating the net neutrality principles of blocking, throttling and paid prioritization in the provision of internet service.

“In short, it means that internet companies can’t slow down consumer access to lawful content or speed up access for content from companies who pay extra,” she said. “It allows consumers to use their internet as they wish.”

Sen. Cynthia Creem, the chairperson of the Senate Committee, said in a statement that the committee established the legislation to defend state residents and protect the free flow of ideas online.

“We must fill in the gap left by the federal government in the areas of net neutrality and consumers’ broadband privacy,” Creem said. “When Washington shirks its responsibilities, the states must lead the way.”

Rachel Rosenberg, 35, of South Boston, said she supports the proposed legislation because it protects digital media consumers.

“The legislation is aiming to put some important precautions in place that make me feel a lot safer and more comfortable as an internet user,” Rosenberg said. “I hope the bill passes and that the service providers aren’t able to take advantage of the people of Massachusetts.”

Tim Wilkerson, vice president and general counsel of the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association, said in a statement that he will only support net neutrality legislation on the federal level and believes that attempts to impose internet restrictions on the state level are problematic.

“Our members support and adhere to the principles of net neutrality every day,” Wilkerson said. “We also believe that the best way to achieve lasting consumer protections is through bipartisan federal legislation. Regulating the internet through a disruptive patchwork of state regulations will only harm Bay State consumers.”

 

Sarika Ram, Jordan Kimmel and Rickie Houston contributed to the reporting of this article.

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