Roundup: Rural and Net Neutrality

Wanted: Sign ons for Congressional net neutrality letter • Missing data on rural healthcare insurance sign-ups • How can food change the world? • $10 million competition to improve small communities

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The Federal Communications Commission has received a record-breaking 3.7 million comments about net neutrality. But a group of rural broadband advocates hopes the commission gets a few more responses – from members of Congress.

The Rural Broadband Policy Group is asking members of Congress to weigh in on the FCC’s decision over net neutrality – a principle that requires Internet companies to treat all traffic the same and not allow some data to move to the front of the line.

The FCC is considering a proposal to enforce net neutrality. Rural advocates say the proposal doesn’t go far enough to protect small and independent content producers from bad treatment from major Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

“On the Internet, rural [content providers] are currently treated the same as the most powerful and wealthy, and rural ideas reach the same audiences that the most powerful and wealthy reach,” said Edyael Casaperalta, coordinator of the National Rural Assembly’s broadband working group and a fellow at the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Public Knowledge. “But some providers want to sell a sort of VIP pass to wealthy content providers, leaving others who produce information stuck in the slow lane. And that’s more likely to be rural content providers.”

The broadband group plans to send a letter to selected members of Congress asking them to talk to the FCC about the importance of net neutrality for rural communities.

“The FCC will decide whether to keep the Internet fair,” Casaperalta said. “But the FCC also listens to what our Senate and House members say.”

The group is still selecting targets for the letter.

Groups interested in signing on to the letter to members of Congress may contact Casaperalta at edyael@ruralstrategies.org, she said.

Disclosure: The National Rural Assembly is managed by the Center for Rural Strategies, which also publishes the Daily Yonder.

— Tim Marema

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Newly-released data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describing health insurance enrollment by zip code is helping Maine prepare for the next round of open sign-ups. The report seems to be skewed urban, though, since it doesn’t include areas that had fewer than 50 sign-ups in the first round, between Oct. 1, 2013, and April 19, 2014. Including these data points would have helped advocates figure out which rural areas need more enrollment help.

“It’s really great planning for people like us who are trying to decide, as we go toward the next open enrollment, where are the places that might need more help or might need more resources?” said Emily Brostek of Consumers for Affordable Health Care.

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The Department of Agriculture announced $59 million in loans and grants to increase economic opportunity and support the development of rural “microenterprises.”

Funds are being provided through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program (REDLG) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).

Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O'Brien announced the funding, which will go to 85 utilities and development organizations in 31 states and Washington D.C.

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Daily Yonder contributor and dairy farmer Lorraine Lewandrowski wrote a piece as part of an Eater Magazine collection called “72 Ways Food Can Change the World.” Lorraine, as usual, knocks it out of the park.

To change the world, I would like people to think of food as a connector, rather than a divider. Food and water are starting points for shared values and conversations. I do not care about global corporations, for they will never love the land and sea as those who work with natural resources do. I would urge consumer wariness of marketers maximizing profits from farmer "litmus tests" and single solutions.

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Frontier Communications and DISH are teaming up to sponsor a $10 million contest aimed at revitalizing small communities. The contest, called America’s Best Communities, will award up to 15 semifinalists $100,000 for ideas on how to improve their communities. 

"This contest is designed to challenge a community's brightest and most innovative thinkers to develop meaningful strategies and plans that will transform their town or city," said Maggie Wilderotter, Chairman and CEO of Frontier Communications. "Whether ideas come from an individual or a group, visionaries in a community can effect powerful transformations. And the $10 million in support from Frontier and DISH is just the tip of the iceberg. As businesses join together to support their local community through the America's Best Communities Contest, there will be a multiplier effect that will expand the size and impact of the prize. Frontier is offering qualified applicants the resources they need to be their own agents for positive change."

 

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