Monday, October 5, 2020
Headlines Daily Digest
On Oct. 1, AT&T stopped selling digital-subscriber-line (DSL) connections, stranding many existing subscribers on those low-speed links and leaving new residents of DSL-only areas without any wired broadband. “We’re beginning to phase out outdated services like DSL and new orders for the service will no longer be supported after October 1,” a corporate statement sent beforehand read. “Current DSL customers will be able to continue their existing service or where possible upgrade to our 100% fiber network.”
DSL – a broadband connection delivered over old copper telephone lines – is no prize at AT&T. The company doesn’t sell downloads faster than 6 Mbps, less than a fourth of the 25-Mbps minimum definition of the Federal Communications Commission and further cramps their utility with stringent data caps of just 150 gigabytes. But the technology that provided many people their first real broadband still works to provide an always-on connection and far more capacity than satellite connectivity.
Verizon and such smaller telecom firms as Lumen (formerly CenturyLink) and Frontier have not announced plans to sunset their own DSL. That’s a good thing for the potentially 3 to 6% of the US that is estimated can only get wired broadband via this technology, even if such fixed-wireless ventures as Verizon’s just-announced expansion of its unlimited-data LTE Home Internet service to some rural areas across 48 states give more people more choices.
But for those customers to get faster connections, providers can’t neglect their networks. “When I was at the FCC, there was actually hope that DSL technology could be improved to provide actual high speed broadband,” said Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate Gigi Sohn. “If I recall correctly, the companies were making promises of speeds around 25 Mbps or even higher.”
New America’s Open Technology Institute recently published The Cost of Connectivity 2020, a new study showing that the cost of broadband service is higher in the United States than in Asia or Europe—and that US consumers are in the grips of a broadband affordability crisis. This research is consistent with our past submissions to the Commission regarding the dismal state of competition in the broadband marketplace, which has all the hallmarks of an oligopoly.
The Supreme Court will review a decades-old legal battle over whether the Federal Communications Commission can make media ownership rules less restrictive. In particular, the court will review a ban that has been in place since 1975, barring cross-ownership of TV stations and newspapers in major American cities (although some exceptions have been made). The ban has gained renewed interest from the FCC in recent years. In October 2017, the FCC voted to remove the ban, along with restrictions on local media advertising. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also proposed changes that would make it easier for one company or owner to control two TV stations in a single market. “The marketplace today is nothing like it was in 1975,” Chairman Pai said at the time. Similarly, the FCC looked to change the media ownership rules back in 2003. The commission’s proposed changes at the time would’ve allowed media companies to control up to 45% of the U.S. television market, bumping it up from the 35% maximum in place. But a federal appeals court has repeatedly thwarted the FCC’s efforts to revise the rules since 2003 in a series of decisions.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai appointed Glenn Woroch the FCC's Chief Economist. Dr. Woroch is Adjunct Professor Emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley, where he has spent nearly three decades in key roles, including serving as Executive Director of the Center for Research on Telecommunications Policy at the Haas Business School from 1995 until 2013. Earlier in his career, he was a senior member of the technical staff at GTE Labs. Woroch has served on the editorial boards of publications including Information Economics & Policy, Journal of Regulatory Economics, and Telecommunications Policy. He also has served as a peer reviewer for over a dozen other journals, including the American Economic Review, Economic Inquiry, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Law & Economics, and others. Dr. Woroch has also advised or consulted with The Brattle Group, Compass Lexecon, and Deloitte.
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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