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Net Neutrality and Poverty

July 10, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission is about to create a permanent underclass. A five+ minute op-doc in today’s NYTimes provides a concise explanation of how the May 15 rules issued by the FCC would create (at least) two tiers of internet service:

…by offering priority treatment to big corporations who would pay higher fees. That would mean a fast lane for the rich and a dirt road for others, harming small businesses and users.

And here’s what is especially frustrating: the telecom businesses who are making huge profits are unwilling to offer reasonably priced broadband services to either rural outposts (like my home five miles from Dartmouth College) or to people who cannot afford anything other than a “dirt road”. I was able to view the op-doc without interruption– probably because it is 5:30 AM and no one else is on line. But without broadband or cable access I cannot stream coverage…. and because I reside on a sparsely populated road there is no plan for the telecomm provider to come down my road from their terminus roughly a mile away.

As the article notes, the solution is simple and straightforward:

We should classify broadband access as a utility. Internet providers should be considered common carriers, just as cellphone companies are for voice access, which they are not allowed to block or degrade. The Internet should be a level playing field.

This isn’t a matter of providing a retiree on a rural road with internet: this is a social justice issue because without open access to high speed internet children and adults will not have access to the same learning opportunities and business opportunities as those who can afford to get into the fast lane.

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