Internet should be regulated as utility


I was happy to read the article in the Dec. 9 issue regarding internet issues in the area.

I feel it brings light to an issue facing many citizens, and I commend the local companies for stepping up, but I feel the underlying issue deserves attention as well.

My family has a property on the north side of Foster Lake, which is apparently one of the “no zones” as noted in the article. The local telephone company brought in DSL in the early 2000’s and at the time it was ample for most tasks.

However, times have changed.

It is no secret the internet is much different now than 20 years ago – even regular internet sites and search engines use much more bandwidth to operate, not to mention the bandwidth needs of zoom calls, streaming services, and the like.

However, while the times may have changed, the network in the area did not. While they still advertise 1.5mbps, speeds in practice were typically 500-600kbps.

A few years back we made the switch to satellite internet. It is an improvement but not great – it has a high cost, a per-month data limit, high latency, and inclement weather (which we are no stranger to) affects the speed.

Cellular options, such as those mentioned in the article, may work, but the area is heavily wooded which poses additional issues. To further complicate matters, the telephone company has advised us they can no longer provide internet service (at any speed), as there are too many people in the area who already have it.

To me, the actions of the larger “standard” internet companies indicate a disregard for rural America. They know that there are limited customers in those areas and limited customers means limited money. Thus, they do not take the time to install lines for their service and people end up in the “no zones”.

The Oregon Board of Public Utilities does not regulate internet, defining it as a luxury rather than a utility.

I do not agree with that assessment. In this day and age, most homes have an internet connection, and an ever-increasing number of households have a legitimate need for internet. This has been exacerbated by the virtual learning and virtual work environments required by the pandemic.

Can you imagine if power, phone, or water were treated like internet? While it is great that there are good companies out there, such as those mentioned in the article, who do care about rural America, I feel the time has come for the state to intervene with regards to internet.

I think it is time for the state to classify broadband internet as a public utility and begin regulating the utility companies, ensuring all people, regardless of location and other factors have access to good internet.

Chas Palmer

Sweet Home