WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Free Press released Price Too High and Rising, a comprehensive look at the skyrocketing cost of internet access in the United States. This damaging trend is felt most acutely by low-income communities and others who need lower-cost service offerings.
“The central fact is Americans pay too much for the internet,” writes the report’s author, Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner. “Policymakers must understand the basic facts of broadband pricing and competition as they contemplate how to address the nation’s affordability gap.”
The report exposes the details on pricing and profits that the U.S. broadband industry doesn’t want people to know, including how ISP-industry defenders use various ways to measure prices to obfuscate the costly reality faced by internet users. The study analyzes government and industry data, noting the strengths and weaknesses in each form, and highlights how broadband lobbyists working for companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon cherry-pick data to mislead lawmakers, the media and the public.
Among the report’s key findings:
- The nominal increase in broadband bills was more than four times the rate of inflation during the first three years of the Trump administration (2020 numbers are still being reported).
- U.S.-based broadband providers grew their profits to record levels before and during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing their prices during an unprecedented economic downturn.
- Low-priced entry-level options for high-speed internet service are disappearing, raising the adoption barrier for low-income families.
Turner made the following statement:
“The pandemic has laid bare the consequences of ignoring the competition and affordability issues that have always existed in the U.S. broadband market. This global emergency should have taught those trapped in the Beltway bubble that our nation cannot prosper in the long run if we continue to ignore equity.
“Yet inequity is plain to see in the broadband market. By the start of 2020, nearly 80 million people still did not have adequate internet at home. Black, Latinx and Indigenous people comprise a disproportionate number of those who are disconnected. The steep price of a high-speed connection is the primary barrier — a hard truth that flies in the face of the wild claims broadband-industry lobbyists make about prices getting better for internet users.
“This industry spin can’t mask the facts. And the facts show that the average U.S. household’s monthly internet bill continues to rise far faster than the rate of inflation. U.S. broadband giants continue to raise prices and reap higher profits as their own investments decline. This is exactly the outcome we’d expect in a highly concentrated market that’s completely free of any regulatory oversight. But this is ultimately a policy failure, and the impacts of that policy failure fall disproportionately on Black and Brown people.
“The Trump era is over. It’s time to move past the fact-free policy debates that have plagued our discourse for far too long. Progress requires listening, analysis and courageous leadership. But that progress won’t come if we’re not all operating from the same set of facts.
“Prices Too High and Rising grounds us in a reality from which policymakers can begin to repair the damage done and connect everyone to affordable internet.”