Would You Like a Little Competition with Your Broadband?

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Monday, May 6, 2024

Digital Beat

Would You Like a Little Competition with Your Broadband?

FCC Seeks Comment on the State of Competition in the Marketplace

On June 6, initial comments are due in the Federal Communications Commission's recurring proceeding that assesses the state of competition in the communications marketplace, including broadband. In its last Communications Marketplace Report, published in December 2022, the FCC pointed to the potential for more competitive broadband markets.  Although millions of Americans lacked access to high-speed broadband or could only access high-speed broadband through a single provider, the FCC found "this market is on the cusp of generational change."  The Infrastructure and Investment and Jobs Act earmarked $65 billion for continued broadband adoption and deployment throughout the country. The FCC’s own effort to develop new broadband maps, the Commission predicted, would help identify broadband gaps and better target federal support. New technologies like 5G fixed wireless services were being deployed and, the FCC posited, could provide new competition to traditional fixed broadband services, particularly in rural areas.  

In this year's proceeding, the FCC is inviting industry stakeholders, the public, and all other interested parties to submit information, comments, and analyses pertaining to 2022, 2023, and any notable trends and developments that have occurred during early 2024. The FCC asks that parties submit relevant current and historic data that are comparable over time.

The FCC has two aims for the report that result from all this public comment:

  1. assess the state of competition in the communications marketplace, and
  2. determine if any laws, regulations, regulatory practices, or demonstrated marketplace practices pose a barrier to competitive entry into the communications marketplace or to the competitive expansion of existing providers of communications services.

For this proceeding, the FCC proposes to use Broadband Data Collection (BDC) data from December 2023—unless stakeholders can propose better data to use. The Commission is open to considering data sources beyond the BDC, including any potential deployment related to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

I. Fixed Broadband Services

The FCC is seeking input on the criteria or metrics that could be used to evaluate the state of competition for fixed broadband services (including cable, fiber to the premises, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), terrestrial fixed wireless, and satellite) and the state of broadband service availability. The FCC also wants comments and information on industry data, competitive dynamics, and trending factors in the provision of fixed broadband services. The FCC wants to know about the extent to which differences in service characteristics—think latency, upload and download speeds, and data allowances—affect consumers’ ability to use the services effectively, and whether these differences significantly affect competition.  

The FCC also requests comment on whether laws, regulations, regulatory practices, or demonstrated marketplace practices pose a barrier to facilities-based competitive entry into the marketplace for the provision of fixed services, or to the competitive expansion of existing facilities-based service providers. To what extent do such laws, regulations, and marketplace practices affect entry conditions for entrepreneurs and other small businesses in the provision of facilities-based fixed broadband services?

Specifically, the FCC asks commenters to submit data and information on:

  1. The number of fixed broadband subscribers/connections at the national level disaggregated by technology, speed, and service provider;
  2. Trends in connectivity gaps in service availability, speeds, and quality of fixed broadband services across geographic areas (e.g., rural, urban, and Tribal); 
  3. Competition in the provision of fixed broadband services;
  4. Information on innovations that have shaped and will shape fixed connectivity; 
  5. The extent of competition between fixed broadband providers that rely on different types of transmission technologies, such as fiber, cable, DSL, fixed wireless, and satellite, and the degree to which consumers consider or treat these services as substitutes;
  6. How to incorporate fixed wireless or satellite services in our analysis of fixed broadband service availability, and the reasons why;
  7. Whether we can evaluate competition between services by evaluating the percentage of potential subscribers offered the service that actually subscribe to that service;
  8. The extent to which there are quality of service differences between technologies and if consumers consider these differences to be significant;
  9. How quality of service should be measured;
  10. The factors that determine consumer demand for fixed broadband services;
  11. Data caps and the provision and consumption of fixed broadband services;
  12. Trends in subscriber churn; 
  13. Trends in data traffic and consumer data usage;
  14. Price levels and trends, as well as trends in service offerings;
  15. Revenue metrics—including total revenue and average revenue per unit—for the industry as a whole and for individual providers;
  16. Capital investment, innovation, and technological upgrades;
  17. Network quality and speeds of service, including latency and outages;
  18. The role of entry conditions (federal, state, and/or local) in fixed broadband services, including for entrepreneurs and other small businesses;
  19. Recent entry into and exit from the marketplace;
  20. The extent of competition between mobile and fixed (i.e., wireline, satellite, and fixed wireless) providers of voice, broadband, and video services;
  21. The status of competition among broadband providers in multiple tenant environments; and
  22. The effects of early termination fees on consumer contracts and the consumer’s ability to switch providers.

The FCC seeks similar data and information on mobile wireless services.

II. Bridging the Digital Divide

As part of the FCC’s continuing effort to advance digital equity for all, including low-income persons, people of color, persons with disabilities, persons who live in rural areas or Tribal lands, and others who are or have been historically underserved, marginalized, or adversely affected by inequality, the Commission invites comment on any issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the broadband marketplace. 

The FCC also seeks information and data specifically around affordability, adoption, and equitable access to broadband throughout the United States:

  1. Changes and trends in affordability; 
  2. Status and trends of connectivity-related gaps (think the homework gap and/or uneven access to healthcare services), speeds, and quality of service across geographic areas, demographics and income levels, and the impact of government programs, including the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), and Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), on these gaps;
  3. The contribution of public sector subsidies and private sector initiatives to improve affordability;
  4. The impact of universal service programs on affordability;
  5. Methodologies and data sources to measure affordability;
  6. Methodologies and data sources to measure adoption;
  7. Interaction between adoption and affordability;
  8. Interaction of equitable access and various subsidy programs, specifically those focused on rural, low income, and Tribal areas; 
  9. Information on data and methodologies that could assist in identifying and quantifying connectivity-related gaps, speeds, and quality of service across geographic areas, demographics, and income levels;
  10. Cost and attributes of broadband plans that consumers purchase;
  11. Cost of broadband services for consumers after discounts and subsidies; and
  12. The impact of the wind-down of the ACP on churn, adoption rates, and other market indicators.

III. International Broadband Data

Finally, Congress has directed the FCC to include information comparing the extent of broadband service capability (data transmission speeds and price for broadband service capability) in a total of 75 communities in at least 25 countries abroad for each of the data rate benchmarks for broadband service utilized by the Commission to reflect different speed tiers. The FCC must choose international communities comparable to various communities in the United States with respect to population size, population density, topography, and demographic profile. 

So the FCC seeks data, information, and comment on comparative international information on broadband services that can inform this assessment.  Commenters are invited to submit data and information on:

  1. International fixed and mobile broadband speed and quality of service;
  2. International fixed and mobile broadband pricing;
  3. International fixed and mobile broadband service availability by technology;
  4. Additional comparison countries beyond the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries;
  5. Fixed and mobile broadband service availability data for non-European OECD countries, which may be comparable to FCC BDC data for the United States and the European Commission’s coverage data for the European Union;
  6. Alternative fixed and mobile broadband pricing datasets that we should consider for analysis; and 
  7. Potential methodologies that could be used to compare data transmission speeds and prices for broadband service across communities and countries.

Public Comment Period

Initial public comments are due in this proceeding on June 6, 2024; replies to those comments are due July 8, 2024. For those keeping score on how, this is GN Docket No. 24-119. For further information, contact Catherine Matraves at the FCC's Office of Economics and Analytics at (202) 391-6272 or Catherine.Matraves@fcc.gov, or Judith Dempsey at (202) 418-1861 or Judith.Dempsey@fcc.gov. We can expect a report to Congress on the FCC's findings late in 2024.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2024. Redistribution of this email publication - both internally and externally - is encouraged if it includes this copyright statement.

For subscribe/unsubscribe info, please email headlinesATbentonDOTorg

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

Share this edition:

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Broadband Delivers Opportunities and Strengthens Communities

By Kevin Taglang.