Public Knowledge – The Regulatory Beatings Must Continue Until Broadband Ubiquity Improves

by Mike Wendy on August 16, 2012

It was reported today that the DoJ has approved the $3.6 billion joint operating agreement between Verizon and Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Bright House.  It is expected that the FCC will follow suit shortly.

This did not stop anti-property group, Public knowledge, from roundly condemning the approval, exclaiming in this press release that:

By allowing Verizon and the cable companies to sell each other’s services, the DoJ and the FCC are acknowledging what has been clear for some time–that broadband competition policy in the United States has failed. For years, policymakers have hoped that “facilities-based” competition between wired broadband providers would protect consumers, drive down prices, and encourage new deployment. It is clear that this promise has not been fulfilled.

Ummm, rrright.

Let’s put a couple of things into perspective.

First, PK will never be satisfied with marketplace dynamics spurring broadband growth because their modus operandi is one that calls on regulators to play that central role.  Why?  Because regulators can be tooled, bent and perverted far easier to corporate (that is, their benefactors’) ends than prickly, messy and spontaneously ordered markets.  So, it’s no surprise that they’re unhappy.  They’re effectively cut out of the picture, sitting 522nd fiddle to the healthy marketplace.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was signed into law – a law which was crafted to “[P]rovide for a pro-competitive, de-regulatory national policy framework designed to accelerate rapidly private sector deployment of advanced information technologies and services to all Americans by opening all telecommunications markets to competition” – trillions of dollars of private investment have flooded into the marketplace, making broadband almost universally available.

I sum up the result of this deregulatory framework in a tweet (from me) this morning:

B-band competition sux? In ’96 I had POTs+14.4 modem. Today, I can get b-band cable, DSL, FiOS, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi & Sat svcs @gigibsohn @FCC

Yes, there’re still gaps, but, for the most part, if you want broadband, you can pretty much get it.  To this end, 95% of America has access to at least one facilities-based broadband provider; and over 80% have two or more such choices.  With technology and rising demand, those numbers are only growing.  This is not to mention the vibrant ecosystem of broadband-hungry apps, services, content and devices that have sprung up because of ubiquitous broadband connectivity, further fueling the broadband Internet’s growth.

PK’s model would stifle that.  As they note in their release, since broadband competition ostensibly does not exist, “Congress and the FCC should pursue new policies to stimulate competition in wireline internet access service–or resign themselves to regulating a broadband monopoly.

Yeah, we had good success with that one, right?   The regulatory beatings must continue until the broadband ubiquity improves – that’s a winner.

Woo-hoo!  POTs and 14.4 modems for everyone!


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