A few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., and bring awareness to the need and importance of improved broadband Internet service in rural America. Many small and rural communities need this improved connectivity in order to retain young families, conduct and support business, and allow for more job opportunity in places where cows may outnumber people.
My thoughts on this subject can be viewed in an interview I did with FOX News during that trip to D.C., which you can watch here.
Currently, Congress is debating the issue of “net neutrality,” which refers to which entity should have control over the Internet and its content. Should the federal government regulate the Internet like it does radio and television, or will this rapidly growing and changing technology be in better hands by leaving it in the private sector to interests like cable and Internet providers?
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Recently, President Obama was in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and discussed his plans to bring lightning-fast Internet to every corner of the United States. According to Obama, between 2009 and 2012, annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40%, from $21 billion to $30 billion. Yet, around half the country's rural population doesn’t have access to high-speed Internet. Obama said that we “can’t afford to leave so many parts of the country without a vibrant, competitive broadband marketplace.”
Proponents of federal regulation contend there’s not enough profit incentive for private interests to provide high-speed Internet to every household in the boonies. They argue that government has the sway needed to more quickly improve Internet access across the nation.
As a rural dweller, I can understand why some folks would want the government to step in and help alleviate this problem. Until last fall, my nearest Internet service tower was 20 miles away. If it was a cloudy, windy day, or if the trees were in the full bloom of summer, our Internet service was often patchy and slow. That situation led to a lot of frustration for me in that it meant I had to drive to town to get the connection that would allow me to get my blog content completed for that day.
On the other hand, I’m also inherently wary of unnecessary government intervention in any part of my life. Opponents of federal regulation of the Internet believe this is a gross overreach and interferes with the free market and private business. I acknowledge that there definitely is an issue here, but I’m not sure if Uncle Sam is the one to fix it.
There’s a petition drive undersay to stop government takeover of the Internet, and more than 30,000 letters have been sent to Congress already. If you’re against the proposed “Internet power grab,” you can sign the letter here.
Scott Cleland, NetCompetition chairman, says the takeover is a “stupid idea.” For the Daily Caller, he writes, “Everyone knows the Internet is not broken and has yet to break down. Certainly the Internet doesn’t need to be controlled and managed by a government that can’t even launch a functional ObamaCare website, or an FCC whose website can’t even handle the simple task of accurately recording public comments. Putting the Internet’s operational decision making under the FCC’s control for the first time is a stupid idea. Consumers like the Internet as it is now — a free market of goods, services and ideas. They don’t want a radical change backwards in policy towards the failed policies of a pre-1994, government-controlled Internet from which no one in the public benefited.”
What do you think? This week’s poll on beefmagazine.com asks, “Who should control the Internet?” With 89 votes so far, 71% say the government should stay out of it; 21% believe the government should regulate it, just like radio and television; and the remaining 7% don’t know or don’t care.
In your opinion, who should control the Internet? What solutions could you offer to ensure that high-speed broadband Internet is available to all? Are you satisfied with your current Internet service? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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