Maine Legislative Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee Considers LD 1610:
An Act to Protect Privacy of Online Customer Personal Information

The Maine EUCT is conducting a hearing on LD 1610 today, The following is the testimony presented in writing by OTELCO:

Testimony of Tracy Scheckel
Marketing Manager, OTELCO
Regarding LD 1610,
An Act To Protect Privacy of Online Customer Personal Information
OTELCO is in strong support of the legislation as currently written.

Chairs, Representative Berry and Senator Woodsome; and members of the Energy Utilities and Technology Committee;  Senators Cushing and Dion, and Representatives Cooper, DeChant, Hanley, Harvell, O’Connor, Riley, Rykerson, Sanborn, and Wadsworth;

I am Tracy Scheckel, Marketing Manager for OTELCO headquartered in New Gloucester.  I am providing testimony IN SUPPORT of LD 1610; An Act To Protect Privacy of Online Customer Personal Information

OTELCO is a family of legacy phone companies who have been serving rural Mainers for more than a century. In the traditional voice-telephone aspect of our business we have been bound by law to protect our subscribers’ privacy.  Quite frankly, since we are active members of the communities we serve, we feel a strong personal connection to our subscribers, and even if it weren’t law, we would honor our subscribers’ privacy.  That is exactly what we do as an ISP serving customers throughout the State of Maine; we, by choice, rather than law, do not share any information regarding our subscribers’ use of the Internet.

I am sure there are many other rural phone and Internet providers in Maine who protect subscriber privacy as OTELCO does. Conversely, there are many ISPs who may not. The argument that this legislation is not needed because there is no protection on the open Internet where companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix are concerned is flawed. Consumers have the ability to choose to use or avoid these sites based on their comfort level and knowledge that these sites are gathering personal information. In the case of an ISP, the consumer does not have the ability to pick and choose what information may be gathered based on their decision to visit a particular Internet site. Every bit of Internet usage can be captured, as the ISP is the conduit to everything found on the Internet. We support this legislation for the following 3 reasons:

  • To regulate the Internet service providers who may not voluntarily protect consumer privacy.
  • Enacting this legislation to counter Congress’ repeal of the privacy rules, Maine, and the other states considering similar legislation, would send a strong message that Internet privacy is an important issue and priority in Maine and other states where similar legislation is enacted.
  • It could establish a path for states to regulate the use and sale of private information by websites like Google and Facebook, assuming that there is a mechanism to do so at the state level. At the very least, it sends a similarly clear message to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that has oversight of Google, Facebook, etc., that consumer privacy on the Internet is a priority and therefore may encourage the commission to act.

I thank you all, on behalf of OTELCO, for considering my testimony in support of LD 1610.

Tracy Scheckel