Lawyer: Law prevents panel from regulating internet services

West Virginia

A man types on a computer keyboard in this photo illustration. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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

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

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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