2020 is not a year we'll want to remember, but it is also a year we'll never forget. For advocates of universal, open, affordable broadband, the tragedies that unfolded this year only increased our resolve: everyone needs to be able to use High-Performance Broadband to survive and thrive in the 21st century. We can't wait any longer to make universal broadband a reality.
The town of Bar Harbor, Maine, is planning a $750,000 project to connect fiber optic cable to town-owned properties so its staff can have broadband internet access at work. The town has such access now but will have to start paying $45,000 a year to Charter Communications to continue using the company’s fiber network infrastructure because of an expiring agreement that has allowed the town to use the fiber at no cost beyond what it pays its internet service providers. The town pays currently approximately $4,500 per year for internet access.
Across the country, the Federal Communications Commission and internet service providers are pretending there’s competition in an unimaginable number of places where it doesn’t actually exist. We consistently pay more than Europe regardless of speed, according to a fascinating, approachable study you should read from the New America think tank.
Efforts to provide broadband in unserved areas of Georgia took another step forward following a Public Service Commission (PSC) decision which determines the fee paid by cable companies to attach wires and cables to electric membership cooperative utility poles. The Georgia PSC unanimously approved a motion requiring EMCs to lower the pole attachment rate for new attachments in areas of the state that are unserved by broadband, to $1, per pole, per year, for six years.
How much do consumers pay for internet service in the United States? The question might seem relatively simple, but the answer has stymied the federal government for years—because no agency collects this data. Throughout 2020, my organization, New America’s Open Technology Institute, published the Cost of Connectivity series to crack open the black box of internet pricing.
A new report from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society argues for more federal support of open-access, middle-mile (OAMM) networks, which “can help the nation meet its deployment and competition challenges.” By definition, an OAMM network will allow any Internet service provider (ISP) to connect to it, “on nondiscriminatory terms and conditions,” in order to provide last-mile solutions to homes and businesses.
This year-long research project surveyed rural and urban Pennsylvanians about their willingness to pay for high-speed broadband service. It provides a unique first look into factors that continue to create substantial barriers to closing the digital divide. The researchers surveyed 1,446 Pennsylvania residents in May and June 2020. They used a hybrid telephone/SMS (short message service, or “text messaging”) survey that asked respondents about the type of internet technology available to them, broadband pricing, and willingness to pay for 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) broadband.
The Federal Communications Commission does not collect broadband pricing data or analyze the price of broadband access. This is despite numerous studies detailing how cost is one of the biggest barriers to broadband adoption, a stark divide that disproportionately harms Black, Latinx, tribal, and rural communities. The COVID-19 pandemic casts this gap in a grim new light. For the incoming administration, the solution is as close at hand as the nearest jar of pasta sauce or container of ice cream.
Several of Wyoming’s local fiber and cable-based broadband providers recently brought to my attention legitimate concerns that their high-speed broadband networks are likely to be overbuilt by competitors receiving CARES Act grants being distributed through the Wyoming Business Council’s (WBC) Connect Wyoming program.
Whether it's more fiber deployments by AT&T or T-Mobile offering fixed wireless broadband in rural areas, Charter is ready for the competition. Charter CFO Chris Winfrey said Charter was well-positioned to handle all types of competition across all infrastructures due to the continued investments it has made in its network. "We are growing against all competitors in all markets irrespective of the competitive infrastructure," Winfrey said. "And our results really demonstrate that when you compare that to the competition.