Free Press: Solutions to the 'Competition Crisis' Missing from the National Broadband Plan

Contact Info: 
Liz Rose, 202-265-1490 x 32

WASHINGTON -- Today at its December open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission heard an update on the progress of the National Broadband Plan. Promoting competition was a promised theme of the plan.

The FCC press release announced: "Encouragement of competition will be a guiding principle of the plan, since competition drives innovation and provides consumer choice." However, the overview of the plan failed to present policy ideas for spurring competition. In a 17-point framework for the plan, competition policy appeared only in the context of opening up the marketplace for cable set-top box policies.

Chairman Julius Genachowski applauded the work of the broadband plan team and indicated his view that "competition is the mother of investment." This message reiterates a strong theme of his leadership at the agency, recalling a recent speech in which he said: "As American consumers make the shift from dial-up to broadband, their choice of providers has narrowed substantially. I don’t intend that remark as a policy conclusion or criticism -- it is simply a fact about today’s marketplace that we must acknowledge and incorporate into our policymaking."

Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott made the following statement:

"Congress tasked the FCC with creating a National Broadband Plan because broadband in Toledo is 10 times slower and twice as expensive as it is in Tokyo. The current plan has a proposal for expanding basic broadband to rural America. Yet we see almost nothing in this plan that would address the competition crisis in American broadband markets or rapidly advance American broadband networks to world-class quality.

"We applaud the plan for its interventions on Universal Service Fund reform, adoption programs, and set-top boxes -- these are excellent starting points. The national broadband team is looking to tackle tough issues -- but without a comprehensive plan to boost competition other policy initiatives fall flat. Competition is the key for achieving faster, lower-priced broadband service."

"America’s most basic broadband problem is that we are stuck with a duopoly of local cable and telephone companies that controls virtually every broadband market in America. The trends in both wireless and wireline broadband markets lead to more consolidation, not less. Where are the clear goals and benchmarks for bringing American consumers a world-class network? The current marketplace will not magically leap forward to world-class levels. There must be major policy intervention to get the country on track. We hope the FCC will present those ideas in the next update in January.

"This plan requires bold aspiration and ambition to provide a world-class network at comparable speeds and prices to every American household. That is the charge from Congress. These goals cannot be achieved without directly challenging the market power of incumbent telephone and cable companies that has locked the nation into plodding, incremental progress. The only aggressive proposal on the table is whether the government should reclaim broadcast television spectrum and repurpose it for broadband. Why are the sacred cows of the telephone, cable and wireless industry left untouched?

"We encourage the national broadband team to raise their sights and to focus deserving attention on the competition crisis in American broadband markets."

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good