Restoring Regulations for Internet Privacy in Maine

Shenna Bellows for Internet Privacy in MaineThat is what Maine Senator Shenna Bellows is proposing to do with LD 1610.  The bipartisan legislation will essentially redo what the FCC has recently undone and establish rules for Internet privacy in Maine.

Last November we shared information about the FCC taking steps to ensure consumer privacy on the Internet.   Last month we told you about the FCC repealing those rules before they were enacted.

Now along with several other states, several members of the Maine legislature have brought forth “An Act To Protect Privacy of Online Customer Personal Information”

OTELCO is strongly in favor of Internet Privacy in Maine and LD 1610.

Historically, OTELCO, in the telecommunications aspect of the business, has been bound by consumer privacy rules.  Now, and for more than 20 years, OTELCO has been providing internet access. We always have, and will continue to voluntarily apply those same consumer  information privacy rules to our Internet subscribers.

Rob Souza Internet Privacy in MaineOTELCO’s CEO, Rob Souza, emphasized the century-long relationship we have with the communities we serve in an interview with Tory Ryden of WCSH.

OTELCO is not the only independent company supporting LD 1610, and interestingly, many of them share a similar history that dates back to rural farmers and businessmen taking telecommunications infrastructure into their own hands when the larger companies refused to serve rural areas.  Like OTELCO, many of these companies are businesses that have been established in Maine  since the late 1800s.

Of note is the fact that the Maine State Chamber of Commerce is opposed to this legislation citing that LD 1610 is “…….a solution looking for a problem” because most of the providers already abide by the rules.

We disagree.

It is true that OTELCO and many other Maine telecommunication companies do not sell subscribers’ personal information and browsing history. That may not be the case with the larger national companies who came to do business in Maine well after our companies were established here. If these long established Maine businesses won’t be hurt by the legislation, and consumers’ Internet privacy in Maine would be protected by it, just who is the Chamber championing for with its opposition to LD 1610?

There’s More to Do with Internet Privacy in Maine — and Everywhere

While we commend Senator Bellows and the other sponsors and supporters of LD 1610, we would be remiss if we didn’t call attention to the fact that neither this legislation nor the original FCC rules address consumer privacy on the open Internet.  So, while LD 1610 will preclude your ISP from selling your information, it is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that regulates companies like Google, Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook.  To date the FTC has remained silent on privacy protection regulations related to the activities of these companies.

So when you see ads pop up that are indicative of sites you visited or things you shopped for, please know that  OTELCO did not provide your web browsing information.  Whether the FTC will take action remains to be seen.