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Local cable, Internet providers unchanged by controversial net neutrality protections

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The Federal Communication Commission’s recent ruling protecting “net neutrality” will not have any major effect on local cable and Internet providers.

“The net neutrality ruling really has no bearing on us,” said David Corrado, CEO of the Medina County Fiber Network. The county-owned network, completed in 2012, includes 151 miles of 144-strand fiber optic cables designed to provide businesses and local governments with high-speed Internet service, with the hope of serving residential customers in the future.

Corrado said because the network was designed to provide high speeds and has the capacity to handle high bandwidth demands, it doesn’t have some of the issues traditional cable companies have struggled with.

As consumer preferences move toward watching television through web-based companies such as Netflix and Hulu rather than traditional cable, some companies are finding it difficult to provide for the increased Internet demand, Corrado said.

Many cable companies “oversubscribe” and sign up more customers than they can provide for. In those situations, they would be unable to sustain services if every customer were to use the full extent of their technology offerings at once.

“They’re running the services over a network that wasn’t built for it, and they oversubscribe,” Corrado said. “They hope not everyone is online at the same time.”

With many users online at the same time, some Internet providers created so-called “fast-lanes” to their own content or content belonging to affiliates. Prior to the FCC’s ruling protecting net neutrality, cable companies also were allowed to charge content providers for access to “fast-lane” services.

President Barack Obama and other federal government leaders wanted the FCC to designate the Internet as a telecommunications service. Opponents say those who provide services that use large amounts of bandwidth could charge variable rates. The cable industry argues it might become difficult to provide services to large-bandwidth users if it cannot recoup its costs.

But the FCC was clear the practice of providing fast-lanes is no longer allowed. A statement after its 3-2 ruling on Feb. 26 said, “broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind — in other words, no ‘fast lanes.’ This rule also bans ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.”

Corrado said the ruling won’t affect the operations of the fiber network, because it is not practicing anything that will now come under regulation.

“This is one of the reasons fiber became so popular 15 years ago,” he said.

In Wadsworth, city leaders said the ruling shouldn’t affect the government-owned CityLink, which provides Internet, cable and telephone services for residents in the city and Wadsworth Township.

But city Services Director Robert Patrick said the FCC ruling did take away a potential pricing option. CityLink, like other traditional providers, is aware that the current infrastructure has limited bandwidth.

“There’s only so much bandwidth out there, and more and more people are watching TV and movies over the Internet,” he said. “As a provider, I could see a future need to charge companies like Netflix more for the service, but that option is no longer on the table.”

Patrick said CityLink, like the Medina County network, does not have operations that will be banned under the new FCC guidelines, but said he’s not sure what the new regulations will call for.

“We’re still weeding through the details, but we don’t think it will affect us much,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what regulations they impose.

“As a small cable Internet provider, we don’t have a big staff to handle extra regulations like that and it could be a detriment to an organization like ours.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.



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