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Open Internet Proposal Could Boost Speeds for Rural Ohioans

PHOTO: Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is recommending the strongest open-Internet regulations ever proposed by the agency, which would classify the web the same as any other utility. Photo credit: PhotoSteve101/Flickr.
PHOTO: Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is recommending the strongest open-Internet regulations ever proposed by the agency, which would classify the web the same as any other utility. Photo credit: PhotoSteve101/Flickr.
February 5, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing to reclassify the Internet the same as a utility, which would improve access for rural Ohioans.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday he will seek to have the Internet regulated under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Whitney Kimball Coe, program associate with the Center for Rural Strategies, says it would create a free and open Internet for everyone.

"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. "Rural folks are pretty used to being in the slow lane, and I think we're tired of it and we're looking for greater access."

The proposal allows for the creation of regulations to ban paid prioritization of content and services across all Internet platforms, including mobile broadband. It's estimated more than half of rural Americans have no access to high-speed Internet.

Much of the debate over net neutrality has centered around Internet providers who want to charge fees for "fast lanes" on their networks. But Kimball Coe says it's more than that for rural Ohioans.

"While net neutrality has become a big issue, we're still talking about the need for access and not just talking about wanting a faster Internet," she says. "We want to actually get on the Internet."

Opponents argue the proposal is overreaching and would stifle investment and customer choice. The commission must approve the proposal, and a vote is expected Feb. 26.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH