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Utility Designation for Internet Brings Hope for Montana Access

PHOTO: Faster and more abundant broadband Internet service could be extended to rural areas, should a proposal from FCC chair Tom Wheeler ensuring "net neutrality" come to pass. Photo credit: Daniel Friesenecker/Pixabay.
PHOTO: Faster and more abundant broadband Internet service could be extended to rural areas, should a proposal from FCC chair Tom Wheeler ensuring "net neutrality" come to pass. Photo credit: Daniel Friesenecker/Pixabay.
February 5, 2015

HELENA, Mont. - High-speed, broadband Internet would be classified as a utility under a proposal expected later this month from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

FCC chair Tom Wheeler outlined the plan Wednesday, saying the regulations are needed to keep service providers from blocking access to sites or slowing down connection speeds.

Whitney Kimball Coe, program associate at the Center for Rural Strategies, says there's also hope the classification will lead to greater Internet service extended to small communities, similar to basic telephone service.

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

Internet providers have rejected such regulation, claiming it would harm investment and innovation, although Wheeler is promoting the plan as a way to encourage more innovation.

Kimball Coe says the proposal also reflects the importance of being connected in today's world.

"We believe it's a human right," she says. "The ability to communicate and have access to places where you can contribute knowledge and also gain knowledge just seems to be a basic human right at this point."

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT