Do you get your broadband service from a rural telephone company? Did you know that proposed Federal Communications Commission rules could greatly increase the cost of your service?
Joe Hrdlicka, director of government relations for the Iowa Telecommunications Association, and Roxanne White, chief executive officer of Evertek, an Everly-based rural broadband provider, told Estherville Rotarians Thursday how rural broadband service is in jeopardy because of proposed FCC rule changes.
"Why is broadband service important to us," posited Hrdlicka. He said that Iowa's Independent Telecommunication Companies Coalition, of which the ITA is a member, represents independent telephone companies. The coalition's advocacy statements are that all Iowans should have access to an affordable broadband connection at affordable rates and so the coalition is focusing on making sure the FCC and Iowa Utilities Board act in the interests of rural customers.
Broadband, which provides various services such as Internet, cable television and telephone service on one line, has already been installed by rural phone companies. The problem of the proposed new FCC rules would be that intercarrier compensation to rural phone carriers would be eliminated. Meanwhile, rural telephone companies have to pay for the cost of putting in their broadband infrastructure. As a result, the end-user - or customer - would have to pay those fees which could reach $20 in Iowa and as high as $60 in Alaska.
White said rural providers would be unable to sustain quality broadband in their service areas. Any customer who depends on broadband would feel the impact, and rural economic development would suffer. She said wireless telephone systems need a wireless infrastructure to work. And it's local telephone companies that provide that infrastructure in Iowa, she said.
"This is a chance for us to be proactive rather than reactive," said state Rep. John Wittneben, also a Rotarian.
The website TheGreatDisconnect.org urges concerned customers to take the following steps:
n It doesn't matter if you're a member of the media, a member of the board or just a member of a bowling league, YOU are the best advocate for rural America.
n To take action and inform your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors on the facts, write your legislator or hold meetings to create an awareness of what is at stake.
n Call your legislator and influential leaders
n Call your legislators to inform them about the issues related to the coalition. This is an important way to let your voice be heard and influence your leaders.
n Writing a letter to the editor, the FCC and your congressional representative can help clarify views already expressed that may be incorrect. By sending letters, you can bring up the other side of the issue and offer further explanations.
For more information, see TheGreatDisconnect.org