FCC plan to bring high-speed Internet to rural areas could slow it down
By Jacqueline Quynh, Multimedia Journalist - email
LAWTON, Iowa (KTIV) -
Some have waited years to get broadband Internet, but a local phone company says new F-C-C regulations may keep them waiting even longer...or, in some cases, leave them behind entirely.
"We're a small town practice here in Moville, Iowa," Jay Phipps says.
Jay Phipps is an attorney. He may be based in a rural community in Northwest Iowa, but the scope of his work reaches far beyond his office. That's why Phipps considers the Internet an essential tool. He uses it to stay in close contact with clients, and attorneys across the state.
"And now in the new e-filing system that the courts are using, particularly in Woodbury, Monona, and Plymouth County right now as well as a few others, all of our court documents have to be electronically filed which of course is dependent on the Internet so with out the Internet, we really can't practice law right now," Phipps said.
Phipps doesn't just rely on fast Internet at work, he also needs the same quality of access at home.
"I take my laptop with me every night, and my wife also works from home sometimes, so we need the Internet at home," Phipps said.
But, there may be a disconnect. Heath Mallory works at Western Iowa Telephone, a small independent phone company. He says recent plans by the FCC to make high-speed Internet access available in rural areas could also slow it down. That's because, if these FCC changes cause Western Iowa Telephone to lose money, they may not be able expand and maintain their rural broadband service.
"What we're primarily concerned with is, carriers that have used our networks in the past are no longer going to be forced to pay us to use our network and what that means is our end user customers, our telephone customers, our cable TV customers, our Internet customers are going to have to pay higher rates" Mallory said.
So, how does this affect pricing changes? The FCC tells us the old system of compensating phone companies for processing calls from other phone companies was becoming ineffective, especially as people started making calls using broadband connections. In some areas fees varied greatly. The FCC issued a release, explaining these changes.
"The Connect America Fund is designed to expand broadband access to the 19 million rural Americans who lack it -- including over 200,000 rural Iowans -- while at the same time increasing fiscal responsibility in order to be fair to the consumers and small businesses nationwide who pay into the fund."
That means, for some rural locations where subsidies artificially lowered phone service, bills could go up. Western Iowa Telephone is currently evaluating a possible rate increase as a result of the FCC's changes.
Mallory says one option you have before rates increase in your neighborhood is to write to your local representative.
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