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Appalachians Could Lose Internet Speed Under FCC Plan

Nearly half of rural West Virginians do not have access to high speed Internet at home. (Pixabay)
Nearly half of rural West Virginians do not have access to high speed Internet at home. (Pixabay)
September 28, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission wants to redefine broadband by lowering the standard for speed, a move advocates for affordable access say will hurt many folks in Appalachia.

The regulatory agency currently defines home broadband at 25 megabits per second, but FCC chair Ajit Pai wants to allow cellular service at 10 megabits per second.

Kate Forscey, an associate policy counsel for the advocacy group Public Knowledge, says mobile isn't a substitute for fixed broadband service to the home, and not just for watching live sporting events.

"But also more fundamental needs like applying for jobs, for kids to do their homework and file book reports or do research,” she states. “It's the FCC's job to make sure that people aren't getting left behind in 21st century America."

Pai maintains wireless is a viable substitute. Public Knowledge filed a response to the FCC proposal last week, joining a flood of other comments opposing the lower standards.

According to the FCC, nearly a third of West Virginians do not have access to high speed Internet connections at home. That number is 10 percent in urban parts of the state, but five times higher in the rural areas.

Forscey says the proposed changes would be a step backward in rural and low-income Americans' battle for connectivity.

"Let's not let the agency change their rules for its own homework assignment to ensure broadband deployment, so that it doesn't even have to do the project," Forscey says. "Congress told them, in no uncertain terms, to get real high functioning connectivity to all Americans, to every corner of our nation. No one should have to settle for less."

Similar to the huge public outcry over net neutrality, Forscey says it's important for people around the country to tell the FCC about their experiences with broadband.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV