Washington Responds to FCC’s Wheeler on Broadband Competition

Coverage Type: 

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said that broadband users need Internet connections of at least 25 megabits per second -- far beyond what DSL connections are capable of providing. He also confirmed that users have few if any competitive options for these kinds of modern broadband services. Here’s some of the reaction.

"Americans need faster broadband and real competition in the broadband market, and we welcome Chairman Wheeler’s intent to bring his agency into the 21st century. Some of the chairman’s predecessors liked to pretend that slow DSL was still a viable and competitive option for innovators and consumers, so change on this front is long overdue,” said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. "This is an important mindset not just for the Universal Service Fund, but for the FCC to take into its review of mega-mergers like Comcast-Time Warner Cable. That deal needs to be blocked. It would give Comcast a stranglehold on our nation's advanced broadband market and gatekeeper power over the entire Internet economy. The real proof will be in the agency's actions and not just its speeches. Beyond blocking the disastrous merger proposals in front of it, the FCC needs to take concrete steps to promote competition. It must understand that bedrock principles like nondiscrimination apply even in competitive and deregulated telecom markets. And it should start by actually collecting and better analyzing data on broadband competition and pricing -- information the big ISPs have been so reluctant to turn over to the agency and to independent researchers studying this issue."

“People say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem,” said Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge. “Today, Chairman Wheeler becomes the first FCC Chairman to acknowledge what American businesses and consumers have known for a very long time -- we are not getting the broadband speeds we need at prices we can afford. We loudly applaud Chairman Wheeler for defying an army of broadband industry lobbyists to speak the truth about our slow and uncompetitive broadband market…. To protect consumers and promote competition, Chairman Wheeler needs all the tools available to the FCC. With this understanding of the market, we don’t see how allowing any further consolidation of the broadband market can possibly make broadband better, as Comcast and AT&T have claimed. We also hope that the Chairman recognizes that, in a market where today’s broadband providers have a stranglehold on the future, allowing any kind of paid prioritization is an invitation for broadband providers to act as Internet gatekeepers and toll collectors.”

Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, said the challenges outlined by Chairman Wheeler underscored the serious problems with the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and urged the FCC to reject the deal. Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “The Chairman’s right -- the market for high-speed Internet service isn’t nearly competitive enough. That’s why it’s so critical for the FCC to reject Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable. If the FCC allows the Comcast merger to happen, the problems cited by Chairman Wheeler would only get worse. Comcast is already the nation’s biggest broadband provider, with a lousy reputation for value and customer service. Under the merger Comcast would become a national gatekeeper for the Internet with control over nearly half of the residential broadband customers. Allowing Comcast to get even bigger and more powerful would chill the competition that the Chairman is seeking. We applaud the Chairman’s call for greater broadband competition, and we believe rejecting the Comcast merger is essential to meeting that goal.”

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association released this statement: “Chairman Wheeler's remarks about broadband competition underscore the importance of maintaining a light regulatory touch that encourages more investment from more companies. The surest way to stifle further competition and investment in the broadband marketplace is to impose public utility Title II regulation on Internet access. Under the light-touch regulatory regime that has been in place for almost two decades, the cable industry has invested over $210 billion since 1996 to build robust, next generation broadband networks that are available to 93 percent of American consumers. Cable networks capable of 100 Mbps or higher are available to 85 percent of US homes. The cable industry is committed to meeting consumer demand for a world class Internet experience and competing in the marketplace with all wired and wireless Internet providers."

Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs, said, “Chairman Wheeler highlighted the need for faster and better broadband, and for all Americans to have more competitive broadband choices. We couldn’t agree more. AT&T has been investing vigorously to make that vision a reality. Since 2008, AT&T has invested nearly $119 billion, much of that to provide Americans with competitive broadband services, both wired and wireless. These have included our award-winning U-Verse service, our Project VIP broadband expansion, our Mobile 4G LTE network, and, most recently, our GigaPower service being deployed in locations across the country. Just yesterday, in fact, we announced that we will bring our GigaPower service to St. Louis, adding to our list of up to 100 cities and municipalities nationwide that will receive our ultra-fast fiber network. In addition, our proposed merger with DIRECTV will expand and enhance broadband to 15 million locations, more than 11 million of which are outside our wireline footprint, primarily in rural areas. Much of this investment commitment will bring broadband to consumers who either lack broadband entirely, or who have only one provider — exactly the problematic situations Chairman Wheeler highlighted today. In short, we agree with Chairman Wheeler’s vision that all consumers should have access to robust broadband, and that they should have a competitive choice of providers. We will continue to work with the FCC and other policymakers to remove any barriers that inhibit or hinder the infrastructure investment needed to make that vision a reality.”

Chairman's New Definition for Broadband Helps Bring the FCC into the 21st Century (Free Press) FCC Chairman Wheeler Makes The Right Diagnosis For America’s Broadband Ills (Public Knowledge) FCC Chairman’s concerns about broadband competition show why Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger should be rejected (Consumers Union) Statement (National Cable and Telecommunications Association) Statement (AT&T)