Competition

A Further Review of the Internet Association's Empirical Study on Network Neutrality and Investment

In a recent perspective, I reviewed a report authored by Dr. Christopher Hooton of the Internet Association on the impact of Net Neutrality regulation on broadband infrastructure investment. My earlier review of the IA Report focused mainly on Dr. Hooton’s difference-indifferences (“DiD”) model, which from an empirical perspective is the only analysis he offered that could plausibly quantify the effects of the regulation since it involves a counterfactual.

In this perspective, I return to Dr. Hooton’s analysis. My interest in further analysis stems from Dr. Hooton’s claim that his evidence leans in the direction of a positive investment effect in that his “regression coefficients of interest were positive in all but one case.” (That negative case being his primary DiD analysis.) Closer inspection of these “positive” cases reveals errors as severe, if not worse than, the errors plaguing his DiD analysis, including the fabrication of much of his data.

TV and Internet Bundles: A Case Study

With few alternatives, many households are choosing to simply cancel the services they need. A 2015 study found that 15% of American adults had abandoned their paid cable or satellite television service. Meanwhile, only 67% of adults had broadband service at home, down from 70% from just two years prior. This case study aims to examine a community absent from telecom companies’ field of view. The subject of this study is a working-class couple in their late 50s....Americans have been vocal about their opposition to increasing TV and internet prices, sometimes opting to cancel their services altogether. As service providers start to recognize the threat of losing customers, they must acknowledge the extent to which their practices have harmed elderly, immigrant, and working-class households in particular. Most importantly, policymakers must take advantage of the role they may play in advocating for these communities through promoting competition among telecom companies.

Speedtest now has a monthly ranking of global internet speeds

Speedtest has long been the go-to for measuring internet speed, and now it’s launched the Speedtest Global Index, a monthly global ranking that allows you to see how your country stacks up when it comes to internet speed. The Global Index compiles data from the billions of tests consumers run on the service, and shows both mobile and fixed broadband speeds from around the world. Set to be updated monthly, each country’s ranking shows both its average download speed, as well as any difference in rank from the previous month. Click through on an individual country, and view both its average download and upload speed.

One broadband choice still counts as “competition” after court decision on Business Data Services

A Federal Communications Commission decision to eliminate price caps in much of the business broadband market can remain in place after a federal judge denied a petition to halt the FCC order. The FCC's Republican majority in April imposed a new standard that deems certain local markets competitive even when they have only one broadband provider. In those markets, incumbent phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink will be able to charge higher prices for business data services that are delivered over copper-based TDM networks. Companies that will have to pay higher prices sued the FCC. They asked for a stay that would halt the elimination of price caps pending the outcome of the case.

But Aug 7, the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit denied the motion for stay. The order provided no explanation for the denial. The FCC's decision eliminates price caps in a county if 50 percent of potential customers "are within a half-mile of a location served by a competitive provider." A county is now also considered competitive if 75 percent of Census blocks have a cable provider. (There are no price caps for cable-based business data services.)

Report: US Median Broadband Price is $80 Monthly

The US residential median broadband price was $80 per month during the second quarter of 2017, according to research from Point Topic. Globally, the average residential download speed was 135 Mbps and the average monthly charge was $105. The best value was provided by fiber (208 Mbps for $94) and the worst by copper (14 Mbps for $68).

The range between high and low prices for broadband service tend to be more extreme in some countries than in others, according to Point Topic’s data. India (a high/low range of about $120/$5), Brazil (about $115/$20) and Turkey (about $118/$20) have a higher range, while Germany (about $50/$22), Japan (about $35/$3), South Korea (about $55/$30) and Russia (about $30/$5) tend to have less of a gap between high and low broadband speeds. The midrange seems to be comprised of China (about $60/$5), the United States (about $85/$15), France (about $55/$10) and the UK (about $55/$5).

Senate Passes Six Technology and Telecommunications Bills

On August 3, the passed the following technology and telecommunications bills:

  1. S. 19, Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act (MOBILE NOW Act), Legislation to increase spectrum availability for next-generation gigabit wireless services and foster broadband deployment. Sponsors: Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  2. S. 96, Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act of 2017, Legislation to require the FCC to establish quality and reliability standards for rural phone networks. Sponsors: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT)
  3. S. 123, Kari’s Law Act of 2017, Legislation initiated after the murder of Kari Hunt in a hotel in Marshall, Texas, when Hunt’s daughter tried to call 911 but was unsuccessful due to a required “9” prefix on the hotel phone. This legislation bans the requirement of a prefix when dialing 911 for assistance. Sponsors: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-SD), Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
  4. S. 134, Spoofing Prevention Act of 2017, Legislation to stop the transmission of misleading or inaccurate caller ID information, including such calls and text messages originating overseas. Sponsors: Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  5. S. 174, Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2017, Legislation to require the FCC to condense duplicative reports on competition in the telecommunications market into one comprehensive report released every two years. Sponsors: Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
  6. S. 88, Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act (DIGIT Act), Legislation to bring together private sector and government entities to assess the needs of the Internet of Things (IoT) and study the readiness of government to support the IoT. Sponsors: Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)

Charter has moved millions of customers to new—and often higher—pricing

Charter Communications has moved 30 percent of the customers it acquired in a blockbuster merger onto new pricing plans, resulting in many people paying higher prices. Charter closed the acquisitions of Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Bright House Networks in May 2016. Before the merger, Charter had about 6.8 million customers; afterward, Charter had 25.4 million customers in 41 states and became the second-largest US cable company after Comcast. The merger was quickly followed by customer complaints about pricing in the acquired territories. In November 2016, we noted that "tens of thousands of ex-Time Warner Cable video subscribers have canceled their service since the company was bought by Charter, and pricing changes appear to be the driving factor." At the time, Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge explained that the TWC video customer base was "mispriced" and needed to be moved "in the right direction." Charter came up with new prices and packages, and many customers saw their bills rise when their previous discounts expired and they were switched to non-promotional pricing. Now, 30 percent of the ex-TWC and ex-Bright House customers are paying different—and often higher—prices.

Why We Despise Cable Providers

Cable providers are among the most despised businesses in the country, regularly coming in below airlines, banks, and drug companies in public-opinion polls. "Cable is essentially a monopoly now in urban areas,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and a former policy adviser to President Barack Obama on science, technology, and innovation.

Internet service was deregulated during the George W. Bush Administration, with the theory that fewer rules would foster greater competition. For a time, as AT&T and Verizon started building fibre-optic networks to compete with cable Internet, there seemed to be truth to the idea. Over the past few years, however, the companies have largely abandoned those projects; according to Crawford, the capital investments required were too high. Rather than fuel vigorous competition and lower prices, the rise of these giant companies has meant that Americans are paying inflated costs for poor service.

Pinetops, North Carolina: The Town That Had Free Gigabit Internet

Pinetops' (NC) fight to get municipal broadband demonstrates how far Big Telecom will go to keep its monopoly. The town was finally getting hooked up to high-speed fiber internet that would deliver 1 gigabit per second speeds to homes and businesses across the rural community. But a series of convoluted laws and court decisions created a scenario in which residents of tiny Pinetops (population: 1,300) received some of the fastest internet in the United States for six months—absolutely free.

For Pinetops, that was municipal broadband, where the local government runs its own ISP and delivers it to paying customers, similar to how electricity utilities work. Their provider: the nearby town of Wilson. Wilson is about 20 miles from Pinetops, just across the county line. The small city (population 50,000) has long supplied nearby towns with utilities like water and electricity, so when Wilson launched its municipally-run fiber optic broadband network called Greenlight in 2008, Pinetops was eager to get hooked up. But just as Wilson was preparing to expand the program in 2011, North Carolina passed House Bill 129: the "Level Playing Field" act, which was supported by Big Telecom lobbyists. This put tight restrictions on any town hoping to start its own municipal broadband, and reined in existing systems under the thinking that it was unfair for the government to compete in the open market with private businesses. After the law was passed, Wilson was not allowed to bring high-speed internet to Pinetops.

Why Does South Korea Have Faster Internet for a Cheaper Price Tag?

The average South Korean can choose between three major private internet providers –SKT, KT and LG U+ – and pay less than $30 a month for the fastest internet in the world. That’s $17 less than what the average American pays for a much slower internet hookup. But why? How is it possible that the citizens of the last developed democracy have a faster and more affordable internet than Americans? The simple answer to this question is that in the 1990s South Koreans decided that their country needed a fast and affordable internet provided by a vibrant private sector, and there was the political willingness, and a national plan, to achieve that goal.