FCC Chairman Pai wants to kill Net Neutrality, at the expense of small-town America

Susan Crawford, one of the most articulate campaigners for Net Neutrality (previously) explains how FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to kill Net Neutrality will leave small-town America behind in the 21st century's rear-view mirror, receding into the distance with poor-quality, slow, and inefficient network access at a moment when economic survival depends on reliable, high-speed and neutral nets.

Recently, I went to four small towns in different parts of the country: Petersham and Otis in Massachusetts; the RS Fiber territory in rural Minnesota; and Grass Valley/Nevada City in California. While there, I heard the same story again and again: Households are stuck — at best — with awful DSL service over old copper wires, which means a handful of megabits of data per second. If they’re too far from the telephone company’s “central office,” they can’t even get that; electronic signals over copper don’t go very far without being boosted, and the companies don’t want to make that investment. That means they’re left relying on a cellular or satellite connection for data — an expensive proposition.

One beleaguered father of three teenagers told me he’d gotten a $750 bill for a month of usage. He’s hoping the “unlimited data” plans that the companies have recently introduced will help; he’s worried, though, about all the data throttling that may kick in once his kids get through the first half of the month.

But that’s not the truly awful part. The worst part is that when the homeowner sells his or her property, or subdivides the land, the phone company immediately cuts off that DSL service. That means the new buyer is left relying on a cellular or satellite connection for data. For the unaware new buyer, it’s as if they bought a house that they thought had water or electricity and now — suddenly — it doesn’t.

Homeowners are pulling all kinds of shenanigans to avoid saddling their buyer with a no-high-speed-access (and hence much-lower-value) home: They’ll get on the phone with both the buyer and the phone company to plead for special treatment. Or they’ll simply stay on their buyer’s bill, in perpetuity, hiding from the phone company the fact that they’ve sold their house.

How Ajit Pai’s Plan Threatens Small-Town America [Susan Crawford/Backchannel]

(Thanks, David I)

(Image: Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo Universidad de Sevilla, CC-BY)

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