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The News-Times' recent stories about Verizon's head-scratching campaign to repeal consumer protection rules for video and broadband networks overlooked the proposal's potentially disastrous implications for rural Oregon and America, which increasingly rely upon high-speed Internet networks for education, telemedicine, and basic economic development.

Existing franchising rules - which the telephone companies want to eliminate - give local officials the tools they need to help ensure that rural America gets a seat at the table of the broadband revolution, a principle that both political parties should champion.

Rural communities are integrally connected to both suburban and urban America, providing the national resources and economic engine on which our entire economy grows.

But the proposed franchising legislation would drive a wedge between us, suggesting that Verizon should have the right to disenfranchise rural America from the new information economy.

For years, telephone lobbyists have promised new high-speed networks for our communities in return for special state legislation and deregulation.

Each time their favors are granted, they quickly forget about their promises.

Enough is enough. It's time to stop the sweetheart deals for the telephone companies, ensure that they play by the rules to which their competitors abide, and live up to their perennially broken promises to serve our communities.

Niel Ritchie

Executive Director

League of Rural Voters

Minneapolis