The map that shows rural Minnesota will suffer most from net neutrality repeal

This map shows that the free market argument doesn't work in parts of the state.
Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

Net neutrality rules have the support of 83 percent of Americans, but that didn't stop the FCC from repealing them on Thursday.

Pending a legal challenge, the open internet principles that state every website is treated equally will be gone.

In return, more power will be given to internet service providers (ISPs) who could now potentially charge customers to use certain websites, slow down content from rivals, and give priority to sites that pay them more.

A common argument from the minority who support the repeal is that free market competition will ensure ISPs stick with "open internet" rules, so if one broadband provider decides to slow down content, you move to another provider.

But this map of Minnesota shows you why this is a fallacy.

Faster broadband choices in Minnesota. The white areas highlight the challenge facing the state to bring quicker internet speeds to rural areas.

Faster broadband choices in Minnesota. The white areas highlight the challenge facing the state to bring quicker internet speeds to rural areas.

As you can see, in large areas of predominantly rural Minnesota, there is no free market competition – at least, not if you want relatively fast internet speeds.

The yellow areas of the state have just one internet service provider providing speeds of 25mbps download, 3mbps upload.

As such, people living in these zones – which includes small pockets of the Twin Cities – literally have no alternative should their local provider decided to abandon open internet principles.

In light green areas there are two options. But, again, these residents could run into problems if one or both ISPs start moving away from open internet rules.

Only a few, albeit densely populated areas, have the choice of three or more ISPs, mainly in the southern Twin Cities metro and western exurbs, as well as the Rochester and southeast region.

The white areas meanwhile have no providers of 25mbps-or-faster speeds, meaning they'll also have few or zero alternatives when it comes to buying internet service.

Ironically, FCC chairman Ajit Pai has actually said one of his main aims with the repeal of net neutrality is "expanding access to broadband."

But as the Business Insider notes, his plan prioritizes areas that don't have broadband access at all, rather than increasing competition in areas that already has it.

Will ISPs stick with net neutrality?

Those without any choice of provider will just have to hope their local broadband company will stay true to open internet rules.

Major ISPs, including Comcast, have said throughout the net neutrality discussion process that they will abide by the spirit of it even without its protection by the FCC.

But there have already been signs that at least some of this was posturing.

Below is the net neutrality pledge page on the website of Comcast – Minnesota's biggest internet provider – before and after the FCC said it was going to have a vote to repeal net neutrality.

Before:

Image placeholder title

After

Image placeholder title

As you can see, the promise not to "throttle back speed" has been watered down into pledge not to "slow down" lawful content, while gone altogether is the pledge not to create "paid fast lanes."

This could have implications for consumers going forward, as they may find slower load times on sites that don't pay ISPs for "fast lane" privilege.

And for those sites that do pay ISPs for faster speeds, they are likely to end up passing the cost onto the consumer.

The battle for net neutrality is not over. Websites including Netflix announced on Thursday they will bring legal action against the FCC over the vote.

Many Minnesotans – particularly those living rurally – will hope they're successful.

Next Up

Related