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Faster Access in Metro and Suburban Areas, Amazon and Higher Prices, Trump and Social Media

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Broadband technologies are getting better and faster, but access is still concentrated in metro and suburban areas, Kim Hart and Sara Fischer report in Axios. Despite efforts to narrow the digital divide, rural areas, small towns and low-income neighborhoods in big cities still struggle to have access to reliable and affordable broadband service.

Even though many rural households may have the ability to connect to the internet, consumers with low download speeds won’t be able to participate in the online economy by video chatting, streaming video or telecommuting.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to require broadband service providers to report more detailed data about where their networks are available after criticism that the agency’s data overstates broadband access. The agency also proposed directing $20 billion over 10 years to fund network expansion in unserved places.

FCC regulators also told reporters last week that T-Mobile and Sprint could face billions in penalties if they don’t commit to using their combined spectrum, including a lot of coveted “mid-band” spectrum, to meet build-out requirements for rural populations.

Amazon prompting merchants to raise prices on competing websites, reports Bloomberg

Bloomberg reports that Amazon is prompting merchants selling products on its marketplace to raise their prices on competing websites, a testament to the company’s growing influence over the e-commerce market.

If Amazon discovers a product is cheaper on another website, it alerts the company selling the item and then makes the product harder to find and buy on its own marketplace — effectively penalizing the merchant.

Antitrust experts say the Amazon policy is likely to attract scrutiny from Congress and the Federal Trade Commission, which recently took over jurisdiction of the Seattle-based company. So far, criticism of Amazon’s market power has centered on whether it mines merchants’ sales data to launch competing products and then uses its dominance to make the original product harder to find on its marketplace.

In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson said: “Sellers have full control of their own prices both on and off Amazon, and we help them maximize their sales in our store by providing them insights on how to be the featured offer.”

“Monopolization charges are always about business conduct that causes harm in a market,” said Jennifer Rie, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence who specializes in antitrust litigation. “It could end up being considered illegal conduct because people who prefer to shop on Walmart end up having to pay a higher price.”

The Hill weighs in on the growing clash between Trump and social medial companies

The Hill also reports on the growing clash between President Trump and social media companies, as reported in Broadband Breakfast on Monday, reviewing some aspects of President Trump’s White House speech that morning.

Trump had called on the Department of Justice to work closely with social media companies to identify potential mass shooters. In that speech, Trump said the internet plays an important role in radicalizing mass shooters.

“We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts,” he said, “The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored.”

He announced that he is directing the DOJ “to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies as well as social media companies to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.”

Trump continues to attack Google, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, which he claims are biased against conservatives. He held a “social media summit” earlier this year dedicated to criticizing their conduct. None of the companies were invited to the event.

Echoing other Republican lawmakers who have spoken out in the days since the shooting, Trump also directed some of the blame for violence in the country toward video games, despite researchers concluding that they likely do not directly cause young people to become more violent.

“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” Trump said on Monday. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

(Illustration by BroadbandNow.)

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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