ACA Connects said it has vetted FCC broadband data and the conclusion is that 1) fixed broadband competition is "thriving"; 2) any added regulation--like Title II-based net neutrality rules--is unwarranted and unhelpful, and 3) if the FCC does decide to regulate ISPs anyway, it should exempt the smaller providers ACAC represents.
That is according to a new ACAC white paper, the aptly titled "Broadband Competition Is Thriving Across America," which paints a rosy picture of competition both now and in the future, and of government subsidies that will further boost deployment and serve as governors on price and spurs to speed.
Based on the FCC broadband data, which is collected from ISPs, ACAC predicts that that "thriving" competition will become even more intense in the near future, and even where there may not be at least two providers, the government's investment of tens of billions of dollars in broadband buildout infrastructure funding means that those areas "already have or soon will have access to a subsidized provider of fixed broadband service whose prices and other terms of service are already subject to regulatory oversight," it said.
That is in addition to the tens of billions of dollars annually that ISPs continue to invest in their plant, the association said.
The paper says that more than 90% of households can get at least one provider offering high-speed broadband at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds and 20 Mbps-plus upload and at least one other provider offering 25 Mbps/3-plus Mbps. It projects that by 2025, at least 74% of the country will have access to two providers with 100/20-plus speeds and probably more like 84% given plans for ramping up fiber to the home.
ACAC concedes there is a potential problem with the FCC data, specifically that the commission's data on households with access to broadband considers service to be available to any census block where at least one household can get service. In less dense areas, that could lead to overestimating the number of households with broadband.
But ACAC sees a competitive silver lining, arguing that "a provider offering service to some, but not all, households in a census block is often in a position where it could expand service to all the remaining households in the census block at relatively low cost. Thus, the provider poses a threat of relatively quick entry, and this will likely affect the prices charged by rivals, even to households that the additional competitor is not immediately capable of serving."
ACAC concludes that any justification there may have been for Title II-based regulation of cable access has "vanished."
Any chance that the FCC could re-institute net neutrality rules in the near term is also fading given the stalled nomination of third Democratic commissioner Gigi Sohn.
“After decades of investment by multiple fixed broadband providers in every local market – amounting to well over $1 trillion during that time – the vast majority of American consumers now have a choice of broadband providers offering robust, reliable, fixed broadband service," said ACAC president Grant Spellmeyer. "And the reach and intensity of competition will only increase..." ■
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.