By Jim Haigh, Keep Me Posted

On October 1, a critical piece of code used on over 2 billion websites to safeguard security expired. Companies large and small were disrupted. And untold millions of consumers around the globe that do not have the latest and greatest digital devices suddenly could not access the sites they wanted or needed to.

The quiet sunsetting of the Let’s Encrypt security certificate is still wreaking havoc because it is the most widely used piece of code authorizing access to secure websites. Consumers are finding that their desktop, mobile, Mac, Windows, Android and other systems and devices cannot connect to many websites using the HTTPS security protocol if their personal tech is more than a few years old and not running the latest operating systems. For the fortunate, they will only have the hassles of updating and upgrading – but many will now be forced to buy new technology. This same issue has occurred on a smaller scaler with lesser used security certificates, and has the potential to reemerge as other certificates expire.

This is a critical matter for consumers who already have been demanding the option of paper correspondence mailed to them by their service providers. Why? Because it is these same service providers, including banks and financial services institutions, insurance companies, healthcare providers, telecoms and utilities that are the most likely to use the secure internet protocols, and valid security certificates are necessary for accessing private, personal account information. And these same companies have been charging paper fees, removing paper options — and even unilaterally switching consumers to electronic communications without express consent.

This latest digital communications debacle should be a wakeup call for companies as well as legislators and regulators pushing “paperless” policies. It is another glaring example where the technology canyon just swallowed millions more consumers that may never be counted. Many consumers simply cannot afford to upgrade to the latest digital tools to access and navigate the online world. Just as many lack access to affordable broadband access. These are realities that make the Digital Divide so wide and deep.

For our society and our economy, we need to protect inclusive communications for all consumers. Companies that are truly committed to consumer protection must make default access to paper bills, statements, explanation of benefits, financial planning documents and other essential notices – free of charge – a priority, and allow those who can and want to access digital communications to proactively opt in to them

Consumers can visit the Keep Me Posted website for information on how to reclaim the right to paper communications from their service providers.

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