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Message to FCC on Net Neutrality: Rural Communities Need Balanced Playing Field

PHOTO:  A leading advocate for rural America, Dee Davis, says potential FCC rule changes to the Internet could be another blow to those regions of the country still waiting for affordable broadband service. Photo: Greg Stotelmyer/Public News Service.
PHOTO: A leading advocate for rural America, Dee Davis, says potential FCC rule changes to the Internet could be another blow to those regions of the country still waiting for affordable broadband service. Photo: Greg Stotelmyer/Public News Service.
May 13, 2014

WHITESBURG, Ky. - The FCC's proposal to push the Internet toward a "pay to play" system similar to cable television has stirred a public outcry. Dee Davis, founder of the Center for Rural Strategies, says while the potential changes are "subtle," he fears they would be another blow to areas of the country still thirsting for affordable, high-speed service.

"Rural communities, who haven't yet really gotten the full access to the power of the Internet, are going to be left out when these rules shake down," Davis says.

Davis lives in Whitesburg, located in broadband-starved eastern Kentucky. He chairs the National Rural Assembly, a coalition of organizations devoted to building a stronger, more vibrant rural America.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has tried to mute criticism, claiming on the agency's website that there "is no turnaround in policy" and "behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted." Still, Davis is concerned that changes to the rules will give big providers the chance to "play favorites."

"What we're going to see is fewer startups, fewer mom-and-pop, rural, untethered, inner-city kinds of organizations being able to make their mark," Davis warns.

The FCC is set to review proposed changes when it meets Thursday. Bottom line, Davis says the FCC needs to keep the Internet "fair and open" - a concept that net neutrality has protected.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY