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Lawyer: Law prevents panel from regulating internet services

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Despite pleas from some lawmakers, an official with the West Virginia Public Service Commission says it can’t regulate internet providers due to a state law passed five years ago.

The issue came up when five Democratic lawmakers wrote to the commission asking it to pressure Frontier Communications to improve and expand broadband services, the Parkersburg News and Sentinel reported.

The commission can’t do that because of the 5-year-old law, commission attorney Linda Bouvette said in a response letter.

The panel has authority over phone service, but Bouvette said the 2015 law “specifically excluded internet services from the commission’s jurisdiction.”

That means it can’t require Frontier to improve its broadband service, Bouvette wrote.

Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April and is reorganizing its debt. The company is expected to emerge from bankruptcy by early 2021. Ten states have approved its restructuring plan, but West Virginia has not.

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