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National Grange Speaks Out Against Markey Bill
Feb 14, 2008 (08:02 AM EST)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Grange, the nation's oldest general farm and rural public interest organization is deeply concerned with the timing and direction of H.R. 5353, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, recently introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). Deployment and consistent access to broadband for all Americans, especially rural Americans, is clearly a more pressing policy objective than systematically and prescriptively trying to define the rights, privileges, obligations and responsibilities of the various participants and stakeholders who already have, or who may already provide, high speed access to the Internet.

The National Grange believes that broadband Internet regulatory proposals such as H.R. 5353, which are based on the unproven assumptions of the social and economic value of preemptive "network neutrality" principles, are grossly premature at this point. Without universal access to broadband, the perspectives, observations and experiences that rural consumers eventually will have with this technology will be left out of the debate. In fact, Section 2 of the legislation, which directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct national broadband summits to solicit input from various public and stakeholder groups to "...access competition, consumer protection and consumer choice related to broadband internet access services" is notable for its complete exclusion of specific references to solicit views from agriculture and rural organizations that represent farmers, rural small businesses and rural residents in underserved rural communities. H.R. 5353 shows further insensitivity to the plight of underserved rural communities when it directs the FCC to " and utilize broadband technology to encourage input from and communication with the people of the United States through the Internet in a manner that will maximize the ability of such people to participate in such proceedings."

Relying on broadband technology to encourage input from rural Americans who lack adequate access to this technology is only likely to produce findings that make the famous "Dewey Beats Truman" newspaper headline of 60 years ago look accurate. The National Grange believes that it is the height of hubris to assume that the experiences of existing urban and suburban users of broadband services should constitute the entire universe of valid policy perspectives on the issues of broadband consumer protection and consumer choice.