Net neutrality, data privacy bills enacted into law

Vermont consumers scored major victories this week when two VPIRG-supported digital consumer protection bills were enacted into law.

On Tuesday, Gov Phil Scott signed the net neutrality bill (S.289) and let the data broker bill (H.764) become law without his signature.

Net Neutrality

By enacting this law Vermont has taken a critical step toward countering the Trump administration’s disastrous repeal of net neutrality by enacting a law that will ensure the state only contract with net neutral internet service providers.

This is a win for Vermont taxpayers, Vermont consumers and anyone who cares about preserving a fair and open internet.

This law closes the loophole left open by Gov. Scott’s earlier executive order on net neutrality. Because of the weaker executive order, we had been concerned that governor might side with giant telecoms over the interest of Vermonters by vetoing this bill. Fortunately, the governor heard the demands of Vermonters clamoring for our state to stand unequivocally for net neutrality, because he did the right thing by signing this bill into law.

This bill also lays the groundwork for even more robust net neutrality protections moving forward. We hope the governor and legislature build upon this effort and move forward to ensure that all Vermonters have access to a fair and open internet.

Data Broker Regulations

In an age where data breaches are seemingly commonplace and sensitive personal information can be used for all kinds of nefarious purposes – this law represents progress by giving consumers back some control over their own data and privacy.

This law will require data brokers – third party companies that buy and sell individuals’ personal information – to register with the state and report their opt-out practices. It also requires these companies to maintain a minimum data security standard and makes it a crime to obtain an individual’s information for malicious purposes.

Finally, this law removes the fees that consumers currently have to pay to put a security freeze on their credit after a company like Equifax experiences a breach.

Gov. Phil Scott had previously indicated he opposed this bill because of a $100 registration fee that data brokers like Equifax would need to pay.”

By allowing this bill to become law without his signature, the governor has tacitly indicated his understanding that Vermonters want these protections. While we wish he had signed the law himself, we appreciate the fact that he didn’t stand in the way of progress.

In fact, the governor and his administration opposed these bills throughout the legislative process (going as far as including the data broker bill on his “shall not pass” list that he sent legislators earlier this year). We thought he might veto both of these bills right up until the last minute.

His change of heart can only mean that the calls and messages of countless VPIRG members and supporters made a huge difference.

VPIRG intends to continue pressing for even stronger protections for consumers in the digital space. The reaction of our members to our taking on more of this work has been very positive – so we plan to keep going even further to make sure Vermonters have access to a fair and open internet and that their personal data is protected.