Broadband Internet Privacy Act Advances

Broadband Internet Privacy Act Advances

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California Senate advances Broadband Internet Privacy Act (AB 375)
North Coast Senator McGuire supports while AT&T and large ISPs oppose

Landmark legislation would protect Internet users' privacy in California.

Following the removal of broadband privacy protections at the FCC, some states are taking action to secure the privacy of their people. In this national context, a coalition of national, state and local groups worked to introduce the California Broadband Internet Privacy Act of 2017. Two organizations based on the North Coast are part of that initial effort, the California Center for Rural Policy and Access Humboldt. Here is a link to our initial release with Coalition letter - which notes in part:

"This bill would ensure that Californians have the freedom to make informed choices about the use and sharing of their and their families’ personal information online, including: financial, health, demographics, geolocation, children and teens’ information, device identifiers, and web browsing history and app usage."

Today the measure cleared major hurdles by passing through two Committees, Energy, Utilities & Commerce, and Judiciary, and referred to Senate Rules Committee - at the first hearing North Coast Senator Mike McGuire spoke in support.

At the hearing today Senator McGuire noted that some changes were needed, but said: "... bottom line is that we wouldn't be here today if the Federal government hadn't moved (candidly) to erode privacy protections."

Video of the Energy Utilities & Commerce Committee meeting is available online, AB 375 discussion starts at 25:27, proponent groups at 40:00 and Senator McGuire's comments at 1:30:25.

And following is the statement of Sean McLaughlin for Access Humboldt:

Today broadband privacy took a step forward in Sacramento - but our work is not done.

Access Humboldt supported introduction of the proposed California Broadband Internet Privacy Act (AB 375) because personal privacy is essential for open networks to support freedom of information and expression. Citizens must have the opportunity to make informed choices about how their personal communications are monitored and their online information is gathered, stored and shared.

Unwanted surveillance for commercial gain has an immediate chilling effect on local voices and harms many aspects of modern life. Public safety, health, education, commerce and civic engagement all suffer when our freedom of information and expression is suppressed.

The proposed measure is a light touch approach and provides a level playing field for all internet service providers.

Large ISPs with market power (not the smaller independent ones) have argued that similar regulation by the FCC was unfair because edge service providers who use internet connections would not be similarly regulated. But that is exactly the point.

Digital network devices actively gather intelligence from users of the network. While some data gathering is necessary for advancing efficacy of network operations, there is great potential for unwanted filtering, censorship and editorial bias to occur without knowledge of the network user.

Providing an Internet connection is a special customer relationship, not the same as edge services. Inherent network surveillance is one layer beneath the value added intelligence of edge services (like search engines, webpages and apps) and therefore has an unavoidable and severe chilling effect on all aspects of our information ecosystem.

Under the careful language of AB 375, the telco/ISP companies' edge services would not be regulated any differently than their competitors in that sector. Telecom companies (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, et al.) would just not be allowed to use their special ISP status to leverage market power and abuse customer privacy.

By avoiding regulation of edge services (websites, apps, etc.) AB 375 secures the core functionality of a broadband connection, without regulating consumer privacy in other sectors of the information economy.

This distinction is particularly important for remote rural communities that lack options and competition in the marketplace. Broadband Internet access is often lacking entirely or consumers and businesses are paying higher prices, often for measured service or restricted (capped or throttled) wireless connections.

Diverse local voices require open, secure networks that respect the personal privacy of all people. That is why Access Humboldt helped to introduce this important legislation in California - and why we applaud our State Senator Mike McGuire for supporting this measure on its first vote today!


Access Humboldt is a non-profit, community media organization managing local cable franchise benefits on behalf of the County of Humboldt, California and the Cities of Eureka, Arcata, Fortuna, Rio Dell, Ferndale and Blue Lake. Community media resources include: cable access TV channels; a low-power FM radio station; a wide area broadband network with dedicated optic fiber connections to twenty locations serving local jurisdictions, educational institutions and other public facilities; broadband access wireless networks; a Community Media Center with studio and other production equipment and training on the Eureka High School campus; and ongoing operational support for public, educational and governmental access media services.

For more information contact:

Sean Taketa McLaughlin
Executive Director
Access Humboldt
P.O. Box 157, Eureka, CA 95502
cel: 707-616-2381