Maine Energy Committee advances internet privacy, net neutrality measure

Legislation from Sen. Bellows would discourage throttling, misuse of personal information

Democrats in the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee voted on March 22, 2018 to strengthen internet privacy and review the state’s legal authority to restore net neutrality to Maine. The 5-5 vote was along party lines. Two Democrats and one Republican who were have absent have until noon Friday to record their votes. Regardless of the final result, the bill will advance to the full House and Senate for further debate and votes. 

“Maine shouldn’t be doing business with companies who misuse our personal information or who reserve the right to choke off free and open access to the internet,” said Rep. Seth Berry, House chair of the committee and a co-sponsor of the bill. “This bill is an important way for Maine to stand up to the big telecommunications companies and demand that they act in the public interest.”

LD 1610, sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows ensures that the state will not do business with internet service providers who misuse users’ personal data and asks the Maine Attorney General’s office to review the state’s authority to address net neutrality under the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.

It prohibits an internet service provider that does business with or receives funding from the state from using, disclosing, selling or permitting access to customer personal information unless they expressly agree to those actions.

In December of 2017, the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission repealed internet or net neutrality rules that were adopted in 2015. That repeal is scheduled to take effect April 23.

Net neutrality is the notion that all data should be treated equally, regardless of what the data contains, where it originates or what its destination is.

The committee vote on Bellows’ bill, which the Legislature first took up in 2017, comes on the heels of the latest in a string of internet privacy breaches. Late last week, news outlets reported that a whistleblower at the embattled data firm Cambridge Analytica alleged that the company misused data it acquired through Facebook to influence election results in the U.S. 

Berry represents House District 55: Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Swan Island and most of Richmond. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House Majority Leader.