Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom

The 2020 edition of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom report analyzes the latest data available from the Federal Communications Commission to investigate broadband competition in communities across the country. Thanks largely to the power of monopoly corporations like Comcast, Charter, and AT&T, millions of Americans still do not have a real choice when it comes to their Internet service. As millions of families attempt to navigate school during a pandemic, and more people than ever before are seeking telehealth solutions, our broken broadband market is a major problem.  

The report breaks down statistics for the service territories of the US’ largest Internet Service Providers: Comcast, Charter, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier, and Windstream. Each section features maps and charts that illuminate the dire lack of real competition in the broadband market.

Important Findings

  • Comcast and Charter maintain an absolute monopoly over at least 47 million people and another 33 million people only have slower and less reliable DSL as a “competitive” choice.
  • Over the past two years, federal stats suggest that Charter and Comcast have an absolute monopoly over fewer households, but we think this is mostly a mirage resulting from how the FCC reports data. A significant number of the census blocks showing new competition are likely only partially served.
  • The big telecom companies have largely abandoned rural America — their DSL networks overwhelmingly do not support broadband speeds — despite many billions spent over years of federal subsidies and many state grant programs. The Connect America Fund ends this year as a failure, leaving millions of Americans behind after giving billions to the biggest firms without requiring significant new investment. 
  • At least 49.7 million Americans live in an area with only one choice of broadband Internet service. 

Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom Report: Most Americans Have No Real Choice in Internet Providers