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Net Neutrality Vote Sends Many Looking to Community ISPs

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance predicts that, for the 129 million Americans who have access to just one Internet provider, monopolies will have greater power with the repeal of net neutrality. (Pixabay)
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance predicts that, for the 129 million Americans who have access to just one Internet provider, monopolies will have greater power with the repeal of net neutrality. (Pixabay)
December 18, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Federal Communications Commission vote to kill net neutrality has some communities looking to create or expand cheap, open municipal internet service.

The FCC voted to lift Obama-era rules that prevented internet service providers from establishing fast lanes for preferred websites, potentially giving big companies a huge advantage over sites run by small businesses and nonprofits. ISPs can now also freely discriminate based on content.

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said the FCC's move could be the catalyst for a consumer revolution.

"In areas that are stuck with just Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter, we expect to see more people trying to build an alternative network,” Mitchell said.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai described the repeal as restoring freedom to the net. He called the neutrality rules an unnecessary burden, and predicted lifting them will stimulate companies to invest more in infrastructure and offer more service options.

Consultant Craig Settles, who works with cities on broadband issues, foresees a major backlash and a trend toward community ISPs that are set up to offer low-cost, high quality Internet access, with leadership that answers to voters.

"There will be activity for municipal broadband, because that's going to be the only way to really fight back,” Settles said.

Tara Sharp is chief marketing officer at Sonic, an independent, local ISP that has pledged to maintain net neutrality.

"We will never slow down or buffer any site,” Sharp said. "We will also never accept payment from any company to speed up their site."

She speculates that the large providers might start offering to make your favorite sites run faster for an extra monthly fee, or offer package deals for specific sites. The FCC decision is certain to be challenged in court, and a judge will have to decide whether to preserve net neutrality while the litigation proceeds.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV