Life in the Slow Lane

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[Commentary] Please don’t break the Internet before rural America gets it. What does network neutrality mean for rural folk, whether online or trying to get online?

What does it mean for rural businesses and the economy of rural areas? Network neutrality, or “net neutrality” for short, is the principle that the Internet is a neutral playing field where all information gets treated equally, no information gets preferential treatment and no player is blocked.

As my grandma would say, “O todos coludos, o todos rabones,” which roughly translates to “Either we all wear tails, or we all get our tails cut.” Even if you are on the wrong side of the digital divide, net neutrality affects you. The way to solve this problem and, coincidentally, to close the digital divide, is to reclassify Internet service as a Title II service. Translation: The FCC should treat the Internet as a common carrier service like telephone. The change will allow the FCC to regulate Internet providers so they don’t behave badly in the first place, instead of waiting for them to misbehave and then taking corrective action.

Reclassification allows the commission to enforce net neutrality and flat-out prohibit the creation of faster lanes. Reclassifying Internet under Title II would also mean that every person in our country would have the right to an Internet connection no matter where they live. Whoa! That means that an Internet provider could not cherry-pick areas to serve, which consistently leaves rural areas with bad or no service.

Title II reclassification would give the FCC the legal authority to ensure that Internet providers put people, not just profits, into their equations. So, please don’t break the Internet before rural gets it. We don’t want a hand-me-down Internet from our connected brothers and sisters.

Life in the Slow Lane