Seen on the Street: Broadband Competition

by Mike Wendy on January 16, 2014

Last year, Tech Eeyore, Susan Crawford (picture at right), claimed that “Big Cable” companies – like Comcast – have plainly won the “broadband war,” with their size, access to programming and technological know-how (among other factors) simply stopping former telcos – like Verizon – in their tracks from competing.


As she notes in her book, “Captive Audience”:

“…Digital technology now provides the key differentiator on the high-speed Internet access side of Comcast’s business, where its future growth and dominance lie: only Verizon’s FiOS service, which uses fiber-optic lines…represented competition with Comcast’s DOCSIS 3.0 data services.  But in March 2010, Verizon indicated that it was suspending FiOS franchise expansion around the country.  Cities like…Alexandria, Virginia, that had hoped to get FiOS would be left out in the cold…

“Verizon stopped expanding for a simple reason. Its existing phone lines are made of twisted copper wire.  To build FiOS, it has to install a complete second network – roll in the trucks, rip up the streets, and put in fiber – essentially cannibalizing the existing network on which it still sells DSL service…Comcast, meanwhile, only has to swap out some electronics to shift its existing cable network to DOCSIS 3.0 services.  Much, much cheaper. And a death knell to potential competition, even though FiOS services are objectively better because uploads and downloads across its fiber optics are evenly fast…”  (Emphasis added)

A death knell to competition?

Verizon has stopped expanding?

Alexandria has been left out in the cold?

Umm, sure.

These pictures, taken by me last Friday and yesterday (pictured below), show Comcast and Verizon broadband trucks servicing different clients in Alexandria, VA.  They would seem to contradict Ms. Crawford’s broad assertion that, well, “Big Cable” has won the “broadband war.”  As other pictures I have posted in the past show (here, here, here, and here), the dynamic, cross-technology marketplace continues its amazing growth, confounding people like Crawford who believe competition does not exist and the marketplace is somehow “broken.”

It is anything but “broken.”



These trucks and their technicians are busy as beavers, competing head-to-head for customers (this is not to mention what’s happening on the wireless side, which only adds to the competitive picture). Consequently, the ones truly winning the so-called “broadband war” are consumers, making their choices from lots of options, and in doing so forcing companies to meet their desires.

Who needs a warm jacket if this is being “left out in the cold”?

Bring on the competition, boys!  It’s getting hot and heavy.

Brett Glass January 16, 2014 at 7:01 pm

The URL above shows a photo of a WISP (wireless ISP). WISPs now cover 80% of the US population and compete with both cable companies and telcos. They also stand to be the greatest casualties should the crippling regulation advocated by Crawford be imposed. While Crawford bemoans an alleged lack of competition, the policies she promotes on behalf of her benefactor Google would actually destroy competition.

Tim January 22, 2014 at 4:14 am

If you search around you can find all the local franchise agreements Verizon has signed for FIOS. Generally however, many have provisions calling for bailouts to continue into 2016 and 2017. There are a few outliers in Virginia and Florida that go all the way into 2021. So Verizon will be legally obligated to continue building out the network for many years to come. I know that in the District of Columbia FIOS still needs to be built out to almost half of the city and their are still some pretty big chunks of Arlington and Alexandria awaiting buildout.

Additionally in states with statewide CATV franchises like NJ, CA, and TX I know VZ is starting to get aggressive with providing FIOS to MDU’s even in areas where they are not providing it to single family homes. This is a change from the early 2005/2006 build outs of FIOS which focused more primarily on single family homes.

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