Tuesday, December 05, 2017

What would net neutrality look like in rural areas?

The Federal Communications Commission will soon vote on -- and likely pass, along party lines -- a proposal to roll back net-neutrality rules. Those rules force internet service providers to allow access to all web content at the same speed. Without neutrality, ISPs could force web hosts to pay tolls for faster access, and throttle access speed or even block access for those who don't pay up.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, says neutrality rules stifle broadband development in rural America. But some public-interest groups say rolling back these regulations could hurt rural communities, reports KELO-FM in Pierre, S.D.

Jessica Gonzales, deputy director and senior counsel for Free Press, told KELO that most rural communities only have one ISP, which would be able to do as it pleased if net neutrality were repealed. "We can't vote with our feet when it comes to how we're getting our access to the Internet and that really is the main reason why we need to regulate Internet access providers – to ensure that they're not blocking, throttling or prioritizing certain traffic on the Internet," Gonzales said.

Cash-strapped small businesses in rural areas could be at the mercy of ISP access fees, she said. "If rural folks do not have net neutrality, it means that they will not be guaranteed that they can reach (an) audience, that they can reach customers if they're running a business from their home, and that they will have equal access to the news and information and things they need to survive and thrive."

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