Rural providers pledge support for Pai’s net neutrality proposal

A group of 63 smaller service providers, the majority of which serve rural areas, sent a letter (PDF) to Congress asking members to support FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to overturn the current net neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act.

The FCC will vote on the new measure on Thursday during the regulator's monthly meeting. 

These providers say that Pai’s proposal, which was circulated a day before Thanksgiving, will benefit consumers from unfair practices and greater access to more broadband services across their respective footprints.

“This proposal assures that broadband services will be treated equally and fairly under consistent protections,” said the service providers in the letter. “It also will help advance our number one priority, which is to expand broadband infrastructure and investment and provide cutting-edge 21st-century communications services to every American.”

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On average, the group of rural providers collectively estimated they invest over $70 billion every year on enhancing and expanding their networks. As a result, rural broadband connectivity has risen 117% over the past 10 years.

However, these providers echoed a similar concern raised by their larger ILEC counterparts that the Title II structure for net neutrality has inhibited network investment. According to this group, rural broadband provider capex was $76 billion, $2.4 billion less than in 2014.

“Chairman Pai’s leadership is paving the way for more consistent protections for consumers across the internet and a level playing field for all companies online,” the providers said. “It is precisely this kind of constructive policy environment that can spark increased investment in broadband infrastructure deployment throughout our nation—investment that will help close the “digital divide.”