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Proposed Regulation Could Expand Internet Access in Rural Arizona

PHOTO: Tom Wheeler (center), chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is seeking to regulate the Internet as a utility in order to ensure "net neutrality" for all Internet users. Photo courtesy of the FCC.
PHOTO: Tom Wheeler (center), chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is seeking to regulate the Internet as a utility in order to ensure "net neutrality" for all Internet users. Photo courtesy of the FCC.
February 5, 2015

PHOENIX - Internet use in Arizona and across the nation may soon be regulated as a utility.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday he will seek to have the Internet regulated under Title II of the Communications Act.

Whitney Kimball Coe, program associate with the Center for Rural Strategies, says regulation should help ensure the Internet remains a level playing field.

"The ability to communicate and have access to places where you can contribute knowledge and also gain knowledge, that just seems to be a basic human right at this point," says Kimball Coe.

Under the proposed FCC regulations, broadband providers couldn't block or degrade access to legal online content, applications, or services. They also wouldn't be allowed to favor some Internet traffic over others - in other words, no "fast lanes."

Kimball Coe says regulating the Internet will also benefit rural residents by expanding broadband access.

"This move to Title Two, or classifying broadband or Internet as a utility, would really close that digital divide that exists between rural and urban," she says. "It would also allow the FCC to regulate the Internet in a way that would make sure that rural areas have service."

Opponents argue the proposal is overreaching and would stifle investment and customer choice. The five-member commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed rules Feb. 26.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ