The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Liz Rose, 202-265-1490 x 32

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


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

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 ten 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 trend 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."

Free Press was created to give people a voice in the crucial decisions that shape our media. We believe that positive social change, racial justice and meaningful engagement in public life require equitable access to technology, diverse and independent ownership of media platforms, and journalism that holds leaders accountable and tells people what's actually happening in their communities.

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