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New FCC Regulations Could Boost Internet for Rural Virginians

PHOTO: Tom Wheeler (center), chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is seeking to regulate the Internet as a utility. Photo courtesy Federal Communications Commission.
PHOTO: Tom Wheeler (center), chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is seeking to regulate the Internet as a utility. Photo courtesy Federal Communications Commission.
February 5, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - Internet use in Virginia and across the nation soon may be regulated as a utility. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced yesterday he will seek to have the Internet classified under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

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

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

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 also should benefit people in rural areas by expanding broadband access.

"This move to Title II or to 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 we have service, that rural areas have service."

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. The five-member commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed rules on Feb. 26.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA