Oliver urges internet users to save net neutrality

WASHINGTON — HBO’s John Oliver isn’t about to let the tough net neutrality rules he helped get enacted be erased without a fight. Three years ago, a 20-minute net neutrality segment on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” went viral. It helped spur an outpouring of public comments that led the Federal Communications Commission to enact tough regulations protecting the free flow of online content. Now, with current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai moving to dismantle the tough legal oversight behind those rules — which prohibit broadband companies from blocking websites, slowing connection speeds and charging for faster delivery of certain content — Oliver took to the airwaves again on May 7 to urge internet users to tell the agency to leave net neutrality alone.

“Every internet group needs to come together like you successfully did three years ago … gamers; YouTube celebrities; Instagram models; Tom from MySpace, if you’re still alive. We need all of you,” Oliver said.

“You cannot say you are too busy when 540,000 of you commented on Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement,” he said.

As further encouragement, Oliver’s team created a quicker way to navigate in the FCC website. Rather than searching for the specific page that solicits public comment on this topic, people can go to gofccyourself.com1 and click the “express” link on the right side to express their views. Oliver tried to rally support by portraying internet service providers as eager to block competitors’ content. And he described Pai as a dangerous public official who has said he wanted to take “a weed whacker” to telecommunications regulations and vowed that tough net neutrality rules’ “days are numbered.”

“‘Days are numbered’ and ‘take a weed whacker’ are serial-killer talk,” Oliver said.

In his 2014 net neutrality piece, Oliver compared then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, to a dingo for initially pushing a compromise plan that fell short of the tough rules many consumer advocates were urging. This time, Oliver aimed much of his fire at Pai, making fun of the Republican’s giant Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups coffee mug and frequent pop-culture tweets.

“Ajit Pai is the kind of guy who has a fun, oversized novelty mug and he is really proud of it,” Oliver said, later hoisting an even larger Reese’s mug. But Pai is anything but the “fun, down-to-earth nerd” he portrays himself to be, Oliver said.

Pai — who has served on the FCC since 2012 and was appointed this year by President Donald Trump to head the commission — has argued that the FCC’s decision in 2015 to subject broadband providers to the same utility-like oversight as conventional phone companies went against the light-touch regulatory approach that fueled the internet’s growth. He said the oversight imposed by the FCC’s Democratic majority by a 3-2 party-line vote was a political move, urged by then-President Barck Obama, that “put the federal government in control of the internet” and chilled broadband investment. Verizon Communications Inc. and other broadband providers have promised to uphold net neutrality’s principles but object to the tougher oversight.

Oliver wasn’t buying any of that. He echoed public interest groups in disputing that broadband investment has been affected. Oliver included audio of a Verizon executive’s comments to investors in 2014 that the tougher regulatory oversight “does not influence the way we invest.”

Oliver said Pai is helping carry out the new administration’s efforts to reverse Obama-era initiatives.

“It seems that Trump-era will basically Ctrl-Z everything that happened on Obama’s watch,” Oliver said. “I genuinely would not be surprised if one night Trump went on TV just to tell us he personally killed every turkey Obama ever pardoned.”


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Tyre residents surveyed on desire for broadband access

TYRE — Tyre’s 981 town residents are scattered across 33 square miles. A big drawback to being such a rural community is lack of quality internet access. The Feb.

1 opening of the $440 million del Lago Resort & Casino on Route 414 has prompted an effort to find a way to deliver high-speed broadband to town residents at a reasonable cost. No traditional Internet Service Provider has shown interest in serving the town, other than satellite or cellular service, which have severe cost or data limitations.

Bob Seem, chairman of the town Planning Board, said town officials have made fast internet service or broadband a priority for their residents. In consultation with ECC Technologies Inc. of Penfield, the town is looking at options, including the possible installation of a fiber optic ring, to serve each home and business.

“A general survey of town residents in 2009 identified broadband access as a priority for many citizens,” Seem said. “But now in 2017 it is an imperative. Broadband access has almost become a utility.

“It’s nearly the same level of importance as electricity once had for rural communities and is, in many ways, the new interstate for commerce.”

A new survey of residents and businesses to help determine their level of need, how they rank internet access, and their willingness to pay for a potential service was mailed to town residents April 10. The town requests a speed y return of the survey so results can be incorporated into proposals for state grants that would partially support broadband for Tyre, Seem said.

“The town of Tyre has taken a very innovative step to secure broadband across a low population density,” said Andy Lukasiewicz, director of broadband service at ECC Technologies. “The residents and businesses of Tyre need and deserve the same level of broadband service as people in large communities where their broadband service is fast and relatively inexpensive.”

Lukasiewicz said the key to achieving the goal of broadband in Tyre will likely rely upon a public-private partnership where the town and Internet Service Provider share the cost of bringing the service to the town. The survey form can be accessed and completed online at the town’s website, www.tyreny.com1.


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TDS expanding broadband

MADISON, Wis. – TDS Telecom (TDS) will expand broadband to more than 3,800 locations in South Carolina after receiving funding from the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC allocated an average of $1.4 million a year for the next 10 years to reach residents in some of the hardest-to-serve areas in South Carolina. The funding will also be used to maintain a voice and broadband network as well as building out to these locations. Norway, Williston, St. Stephen and McClellanville are areas impacted by the upgrade.

Depending on location, most TDS customers in eligible rural areas will receive guaranteed broadband speeds of 25Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload (25/3). Under the agreement with the FCC, the remaining customers will receive broadband service at lower speeds of 10/1 and 4/1Mbps.

“We are proud to be part of this massive modernization project with the FCC,” said Jim Meade, manager of state government affairs at TDS. “We are eager to begin work to build faster connections to more than 3,800 locations in South Carolina.”

As TDS finalizes the engineering and buildout plans, more details, including project start dates, will be provided at the company’s website,

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TDS has been doing business in South Carolina since 1974 and owns four telephone companies in the state. TDS employs 16 people in South Carolina. Last month TDS announced it has elected to receive approximately $75.1 million a year to increase broadband access in 25 states. The funds come from the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Cost Model under the Connect America Fund.

TDS will leverage the funds over the next 10 years to support the buildout of rural broadband networks to nearly 160,000 locations across the country. Headquartered in Madison, Wis., TDS Telecom operates OneNeck IT Solutions LLC and BendBroadband, which is part of TDS Broadband Service LLC. Combined, the company employs more than 3,400 people.


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