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National Grange Supports Open Internet

By Nation Grange - View From The Hill (8/30/10)

  SEPTEMBER 9, 2010 --

As part of a broad coalition of other public interests and consumer organizations to support open internet, the National Grange recently wrote to the House and Senate Commerce Committee asking them to support the adoption of legislation which would guarantee Internet that is accessible to all. In their comments, the coalition contends that current regulatory policies have made it possible for the rapid growth of broadband technology throughout the past decade. The coalition went on to say that policies such as the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) National Broadband Plan are a welcome step towards continuing to bring affordable broadband access to every corner of the country, including those in rural and geographically challenging areas.

However, the coalition is concerned that the FCC’s recently announced “third way” proposal—to mandate certain types of access to the Internet—could unintentionally deter investment in rural areas and stifle the growth of broadband technology across the country. According to a recent FCC survey, only 50% of rural citizens use broadband at home. In order to help the other half of rural residents gain access to broadband, private sector investment is needed.

The coalition went on to say that if the FCC’s “third way” proposal is left unchecked, the private sector marketplace will begin a period of reduced innovation and, as a result, inhibit the expansion of broadband services in our communities. Classifying broadband technology as Title II Service will further
isolate rural communities, impeding their ability to grow businesses, connect with employment opportunities, educational institutions, health care providers, and communicate with our government.

The coalition fears that limited investment will invariably reduce efforts to provide improved broadband access to rural America and cease initiatives aimed at providing high-speed Internet to our most underserved communities. At a time when Americans in rural areas stand to benefit tremendously from the economic, educational, and health care opportunities afforded by broadband access, we are deeply concerned about proposed changes that could slow down broadband deployment in our communities.

The coalition is also deeply concerned about the immediate economic implications of the FCC’s proposed regulations on rural areas. Discouraging investment in broadband infrastructure will hurt job creation in our communities, which is especially pertinent given the fragile state of our economy. At a time of economic unrest, we think it unwise to introduce such unprecedented regulations and cannot support any policy that could possibly result in additional job loss.

Finally, the organizations asked the House and Senate Commerce Committees to investigate the potential impact that the FCC’s “third way” proposal could have on rural communities.


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