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Reclassifying Broadband: Big Win for Rural KY?

PHOTO: A big win for rural communities. That's how one advocate for rural Kentucky views President Obama's call for the FCC to treat broadband service like telephone service. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: A big win for rural communities. That's how one advocate for rural Kentucky views President Obama's call for the FCC to treat broadband service like telephone service. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
December 8, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. - "A big win for rural communities." That's how the National Rural Assembly views President Obama's endorsement of treating broadband service like telephone service. Edyael Casaperalta coordinates a national coalition of groups that advocate for those who live in rural areas. She says Obama's call for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband as a Title II service under the Telecommunications Act not only protects an open Internet but ...

"Also begins a conversation about how do we bring high-speed, affordable, quality Internet to rural areas because that is what we have done before with telephone," Casaperalta says.

While supporters of the idea claim it would close the digital divide in broadband-starved areas of Kentucky, House Speaker John Boehner has called it a "misguided scheme to regulate the Internet."

Casaperalta says treating broadband like basic telephone service should not be a partisan issue.

"It should be about how do we collectively work together to improve the information and communications infrastructure of our country, because it benefits us all, right," she says.

According to the Rural Broadband Policy Group of the 19 million Americans who don't have Internet access, more than 14 million are rural Americans.

Telecommunications giant AT&T said changing how broadband is classified would "be a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet." In Kentucky, AT&T has led the push to deregulate traditional landline phone service, but state lawmakers have rejected the idea. Casaperalta says Kentucky is a "great example" of protecting rural consumers.

"At the same time really encourage initiatives and conversations that would help Kentuckians' access the Internet," she says. "But not cancelling one for the other."

Casaperalta says President Obama's desire to treat broadband service like telephone service is "in line" with what Kentucky lawmakers have done for their constituents.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY