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To: Senate Committee on Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection

Fr: Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director, MASSPIRG

3/28/18

Testimony in Favor of a Free and Open Internet and Strong Consumer Privacy Protections

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director for MASSPIRG, a statewide, non-profit, consumer organization that has been taking on powerful issues on behalf of its members and all consumers for more than 40 years. MASSPIRG and our network of state PIRGs across the country are longtime supporters of a free and open Internet and the fundamental principle of net neutrality critical to making it happen.

We are here today to testify strongly in support of this committee’s findings in the report, “Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection: A Commonwealth Concern,” released March 23, 2018, and the included recommended state legislation. Massachusetts has always been a leader in protecting consumers and the committee’s bill will continue that legacy. We hope this bill will be adopted quickly and without delay.

The committee’s proposed bill will ensure a free and open internet by prohibiting Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization, preserving a practice called “Net Neutrality”.  In addition, the proposed bill protects consumers’ privacy by prohibiting ISPs from collecting, using or disseminating consumers’ personal data without their express authorization. Included are strong oversight, enforcement and transparency requirements that will ensure compliance.

With all the news of data breaches and leaks, it's becoming obvious that we need more consumer and privacy protections on the internet. When our federal government is eroding protections, it's up to states like Massachusetts to lead the way. We will have the internet for a long time, we should make sure it works for everyone.

We strongly support net neutrality to maintain an open Internet. Network neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services.

Net neutrality prevents big Internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Comcast and Xfinity from dictating the kinds of content you're able to access online. Instead, Internet providers have to treat all traffic equally. They cannot pick winners and losers. They cannot speed up some content by creating fast and slow lanes. This is important not only to ensure the entertainment content that they own is not given unfair preference over other content, but to protect the open Internet as a marketplace of ideas and culture and innovation.

In response to the current Federal Communications Commission’s rollback of a previous FCC order in favor of net neutrality, states have and must, take the lead to protect the open Internet.

So far this year, at least three governors – in Montana, New York and New Jersey -- have issued Executive Orders to prohibit ISPs not complying with net neutrality from doing business with the state. And Washington has passed a bill prohibiting the practice. Similar bills and proposals are pending across the country as states are looking to step in and protect their residents from unfair internet practices. We hope Massachusetts will be the next state to step up and pass strong consumer protections.

We look forward to working with this committee and members of the legislature to preserve a free and open internet for all.  

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