On March 23rd, the US Senate voted to revoke privacy provisions put in place by the Obama administration. On March 28th, the House passed the bill as well. Now it’s just waiting for President Trump’s signature, and he’s indicated he will sign it.
Before getting into an explanation of the effect this will have on our privacy, we should mention that Cruzio Internet and Santa Cruz Fiber are strongly opposed to this action. In our 28-year history we have scrupulously protected customer privacy and we always will. With other independent ISPs, we’ve signed on to a letter from the Electronic Freedom Foundation protesting the recent vote.
What’s this loss of privacy about?
The new rules will allow internet service providers (ISPs) — the companies who connect home and business computers to the internet — to collect a wide variety of data from customers and use or sell it.
For example, your ISP can see when and from where you connect to the internet, and what sites you visit. Collecting this data and selling it without your permission is an invasion of your privacy.
If companies don’t have to ask permission, they also do not have to make sure you know they’re scooping up your data, or specifics about what or when they’re collecting and to whom it’s being sold. So likely most consumers will not even be aware of what they are revealing.
Why would anyone want to remove privacy protections?
The claim from Congress was that removing the regulations will “increase competition and cut costs for internet providers.”
The competition they’re talking about isn’t helpful to consumers, only advertisers. Rather than adding entrants to the ISP market, removing this regulation just allows complicit ISPs to compete with social media companies like Facebook and Google for advertising dollars. But since those sectors don’t much overlap, we can’t expect increased competition in either of them. Big companies, with big ad revenue, will get bigger.
That’s why the biggest ISPs, phone and cable behemoths who control nearly all the market, pushed hard — and paid a lot — for this legislation.
More competition among ISPs is much needed. Right now, the vast majority of people in America have access to only one or two internet providers — their local cable or phone company. Deregulation hasn’t created a competitive environment as promised, it just hardened monopolies. Allowing the sale of private information is just another hollow claim.
Since big ISPs don’t have to be competitive, they don’t have to avoid unpopular practices. People might like a choice of privacy or other options, but the choice for most people will be, basically, internet without privacy or no internet at all.
In Santa Cruz we do have a choice. Cruzio is a local ISP with a strong commitment to customer privacy and security, as well as net neutrality. Cruzio has not, does not and will not sell your data. This is true throughout our organization. And every household or business that uses our service helps us stay in the game, enabling us to continue our commitment to principles our customers care about.
Can we just wait, and then re-establish privacy rules later?
Unfortunately, the resolution rescinding privacy rules prevents the FCC from reinstating the same or similar measures in the future. It’s one of the Congressional Review Acts (CRAs) that the 2017 Congress has used to turn over regulations enacted by the Obama-era agencies. The FCC under President Obama was able to simply create a regulation protecting internet users. Next time, because it’s been rescinded by a CRA, protection will require a vote by Congress.
Is there a silver lining to this situation?
We hope so: that the public will be more aware of internet privacy, as well as net neutrality. Cruzio and Santa Cruz Fiber regularly report about this issue in our newsletter, blog, and social media, pointing out ways to get your voice heard. Stay tuned!
(Note: let your elected representatives know what you think about internet rules! To find contact information for all your representatives, we recommend the Needful News Network. Enter your full address to get a list of all of the elected officials who serve you.)