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In Letter to FCC, Commerce Department Broadband Chief Urges More Competition

WASHINGTON, January 7, 2009 – The head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Monday urged the Federal Communications Commission to take steps designed to encourage greater competition in the market for high-speed internet access.

In a Monday letter to the FCC as part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling urged that “the Internet’s innovation ecosystem is built on, and thus depends upon, a communications infrastructure operating at broadband speeds, with robust bi-directional service.”

The current level of competition is not enough to spur innovation or cause increased investment in broadband, Strickling said.

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WASHINGTON, January 7, 2009 – The head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Monday urged the Federal Communications Commission to take steps designed to encourage greater competition in the market for high-speed internet access.

In a Monday letter to the FCC as part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling urged that “the Internet’s innovation ecosystem is built on, and thus depends upon, a communications infrastructure operating at broadband speeds, with robust bi-directional service.”

The current level of competition is not enough to spur innovation or cause increased investment in broadband, Strickling said.

His letter acknowledges the belief that a duopoly in wireline broadband does not constitute healthy competition between two highly aggressive corporations but a passive battle between opponents who know that such a barrier to entry is difficult for a third party to surmount.

According to the NTIA: “locally, where residential consumers make their purchasing decisions, they frequently have limited, and often no, choice among broadband Internet access service providers. The Commission’s recent Broadband Status Report indicates that “[a]t most two providers of fixed broadband services will pass most homes.”

Furthermore, according to the FCC, 50 percent to 80 percent of homes may get speeds they need only from one provider.

“Thus,” concludes NTIA, “even in areas where two wireline networks are deployed, consumers seeking to use the most bandwidth-intensive applications (e.g., high-quality, streaming video) may only have a single viable choice of provider. “

Fourth-generation wireless may be a possible solution in the future, but is nowhere near the level of deployment to be a viable option for most Americans, Strickling said.

Additionally, the current adoption of wireless internet service is mainly through smartphones, which are not the primary vessels for content creation. The increased expansion of wireless may soon become a solution through the adoption of devices such as the Mi-Fi, which allows users to connect multiple devices to a single 3G modem or the expansion of WiMax.

In order to increase adoption and expansion of broadband, the NTIA proposes structural regulation and possible price regulation. “The Commission, of course, has a long-held preference for advancing regulatory goals through structural regulation designed to expand competition in communications markets,” NTIA wrote.

The other solution is to examine the duopoly and how it is truly affected the market: “We urge the Commission to examine what in many areas of the country is at best a duopoly market and to consider what, if any, level of regulation may be appropriate to govern the behavior of duopolists.”

“In so doing, however, the Commission should eschew price regulation, whether as a means of controlling retail rates or as a means of giving entrants access to the incumbents’ broadband facilities. In view of the difficulty that government has in determining efficient prices, price regulation is likely to stifle investment in broadband infrastructure or to discourage broadband service innovation,” the letter continues.

The letter then goes onto to discuss the mapping of broadband. Strickling put himself on the record in favor of greater disclosure of service offering of broadband providers.

He wrote: “In particular, the Commission should identify the types of price and service data that users need to make intelligent choices among those options. In so doing, the Commission should recognize that there is a difference between merely technical disclosure, in which information is available in a technical format, and disclosure that actually informs choice.”

“Timeliness of disclosure is also important because consumer choices must be based on current information to be meaningful. Moreover, consumers must be able to compare the choices actually available to them in their own geographic areas; data aggregated at the national or state level is of little use,” Strickling wrote.

Broadband Data

Ookla Has Verizon as Fastest Q1 Fixed Provider, T-Mobile Takes Top Spot for Mobile

T-Mobile was also named the most consistent mobile operator and topped 5G download speeds.

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Image of Speedtest from May 2017 by Daniel Aleksandersen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 – A market report released Friday by performance metrics web service Ookla named Verizon the fastest fixed broadband provider in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022, and T-Mobile as the fastest mobile operator during the same period.

Verizon had a median download speed of 184.36 Mbps, edging out Comcast Xfinity’s speed of 179.12 Mbps. T-Mobile’s median mobile speed was 117.83 Mbps.

Verizon had the lowest latency of all providers, according to Ookla, well ahead of Xfinity’s fourth place ranking, yet sat at third for consistency behind both Xfinity and Spectrum.

T-Mobile was also the most consistent mobile operator during the first quarter, achieving an Ookla consistency score of 88.3 percent, which along with median download speed represented an increase from the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company also achieved the fastest median 5G download speed, coming in at 191.12 Mbps.

Verizon also notably increased its 5G download speed from its Q4 metric, attributed in part to the turning on of new C-band spectrum in January following deployment delays and protest from airlines. For mobile speeds, it stood in second behind T-Mobile, bumping AT&T to a standing of third. These rankings were the same for mobile measures of latency and consistency.

Yet on 5G availability, AT&T remains ahead of Verizon.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra came in as the fastest popular device in the country, running at 116.33 Mbps.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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Broadband Data

FCC’s Rosenworcel: Broadband Nutrition Labels Will Create New Generation of Informed Buyers

The FCC hopes companies will make it easier for consumers to choose a broadband plan that fits their needs.

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Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband nutrition labels will usher in a new era where buyers have simple information about what they’re buying, agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday.

Consumers should know what they’re signing up for when they spend hundreds “or even thousands” of dollars per year for internet service. She was speaking at Friday’s commission hearing on its so-called broadband nutrition label initiative.

The hearing comes on top of a public comment period on the initiative. Many providers are pushing for more flexible regulations on compliance.

When consumers choose a broadband provider for their household, Rosenworcel said may people make decisions with “sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information.”

“The problem for broadband consumers isn’t a total lack of information, but there’s loads of fine print,” Rosenworcel said. “It can be difficult to know exactly what we are paying for and these disclosures are not consistent from carrier to carrier,” which makes comparing prices and services harder and more time-consuming for consumers.

The comments built on other recent speeches by Rosenworcel promoting the initiative, encouraging state attorneys general’s ability to enforce companies’ commitments through their states’ consumer protection statutes.

The FCC began a plan in 2015 for broadband labels that was voluntary. The new initiative directed by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes this effort mandatory for broadband providers.

Matt Sayre, managing director of cross sector economic development firm Onward Eugene, said residents in rural Oregon would benefit from simple information when considering broadband providers. During a time where dial-up and satellite-based offerings were primarily available, Sayre said his neighbors “never used terms like latency or packet loss.”

“These are important aspects of good internet service, but not easily understood by most people,” Sayre said. “Citizens understood they needed better service but were uncertain about what tier of service they needed. This is where broadband labels can be very helpful.”

The hearing was the agency’s first on the initiative.

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Broadband Data

Small ISP Organizations Push FCC for Flexibility on Broadband Label Compliance

Advocates say strict compliance requirements may economically harm small providers.

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Photo of outgoing WISPA CEO of Claude Aiken from April 2018 by New America used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 ­­– In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, organizations representing small internet providers are pushing for flexible regulations on compliance with a measure that requires clear reporting of broadband service aspects to consumers.

The measure was adopted at a late January meeting by the commission, mandating that providers list their pricing and speed information about services in the format of a “broadband nutrition label” that mimics a food nutrition label. Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted in the fall required that the FCC adopt such policy.

The organizations that submitted comments Wednesday say that strict compliance requirements for the new measure may economically harm small providers.

Among those leading the charge are trade associations Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and America’s Communications Association as well as provider Lumen Technologies.

In comments, limited resources of smaller providers were cited as factors which could disadvantage them in terms of complying with the measure to the FCC’s standards and several organizations asked for small providers to be given extra time to comply.

In separate comments, internet provider Lumen said that the FCC must make multiple changes to its approach if it is to “avoid imposing new obligations that arbitrarily impose excessive costs on providers and undermine other policy goals.”

Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that she looks forward to increased coordination between the FCC and state attorneys general for the enforcement of the measure.

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