By Chip Pickering
This summer, the fight to save broadband competition is critical. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will make key decisions that could reshape your broadband choices, speeds and price — both at home and at work.
Who doesn’t want more competition? Big telecom monopolies.
USTelecom, the trade association representing AT&T and Verizon, is lobbying the FCC for nationwide forbearance that would end bipartisan competition laws and raise prices.
They are using bad data, from broken broadband maps, to try and force the FCC to kill competition.
But small, local broadband providers and their customers are fighting back. They are asking the FCC to STOP the “Competition Cut Off” and SAVE the Bridge 2 Broadband — a variety of network connections, guaranteed by law, that enables new competitive fiber builders to invest and deploy faster, more affordable networks.
Now, you would be hard pressed to find a single person in America who thinks they have enough broadband competition. Over half of Americans have just one provider, and 80 percent only have two. Making matters worse, these large telecom and pay TV providers rank dead last in customer satisfaction.
That is why over 9,000 customers — from small towns in Kansas and Oregon to families living in cities in California and Ohio — wrote detailed, personal letters to the FCC asking them to save the Bridge 2 Broadband.
But time is running out! The FCC must reject and deny Big Telecom’s “Competition Cut Off” by August 2nd or it will automatically take effect.
Who is at Risk from the “Competition Cut Off”?
New Fiber Builders and the Deployment Agenda
New fiber networks are transforming local communities. High speed broadband attracts jobs, investment, start-ups and opportunities for education and research facilities.
But cutting off the Bridge 2 Broadband will cripple deployment from smaller providers. This would mean less fiber building at a time when its desperately needed. Because not only are the little guys the ones building fiber, the big guys have stopped!
That’s right. As a result of their mega mergers, AT&T is saddled with a record $180 billion in debt.
To pay for it Wall Street has indicated AT&T must now “milk” profits off their OLD lines. In addition to cutting jobs, a top AT&T executive said the company’s fiber investment was behind them, and “falling off.”
The 5G Future
The truth is, real 5G networks require BOTH wired and wireless investment. Connecting a network of small cells requires a dense network of fiber. More providers building fiber will speed the deployment of 5G and lower the cost.
Rural America: The “MacGyver of Broadband”
In many parts of rural America, the Big Telecom companies have abandoned service and left town. But smaller, local providers have stepped in to fill the void.
We call these local builders the “MacGyver of broadband,” making network investments and adding electronics to help boost speeds over existing infrastructure to help deliver broadband service to those who have none.
Burning these broadband bridges will cut off entire communities from the jobs and economy of the future.
Small Businesses, Schools, Libraries, Public Safety and U.S. Government
Local broadband providers bring the internet to schools and libraries at lower costs. More money for school districts means less teachers having to buy their own school supplies. The same is true for budget-strapped police forces, fire departments, and emergency services that rely on the internet for advanced life saving services more than ever. They simply can’t afford an unnecessary monopoly tax.
Small businesses need access to fast, affordable broadband to grow. Local broadband providers have superior customer service, and meet these needs. That is why the U.S. Small Business Administration Advocate has warned that the competition cut off will be “devastating.”
Larger retail chains rely on competition’s “one call connect all” services to unite multiple locations and branches, across multiple states.
Plus, government agencies — from those focused on health and social security to the US military, which depends on competitive providers to connect with troops in the field — rely on the Bridge 2 Broadband. Competitive broadband is so important to the government that the NTIA sent a letter on technology transitions asking the FCC to consider the impact on government agencies that rely on a variety of locations.
What to Watch at the FCC
Due to massive impact of Big Telecom’s nationwide “Competition Cut Off,” the FCC will be breaking up their petition into parts this summer. Each piece is critical to competition and saving the Bridge 2 Broadband.
Access to dark fiber lights the way to more competition. In an early win for competition and fiber builders, USTelecom learned that cutting off dark fiber was a no-go, and the association withdrew this request.
The FCC will take up the transport issue at their meeting on July 8th. Transport is a central issue to rural builders working in small towns across America. It’s unclear based on available data from the FCC which communities will be impacted by the test for cutting off competition in transport.
An absolute essential piece to the Bridge 2 Broadband is the unbundled local loop — you simply have to connect your customer base. Smaller, local providers make investments, build their businesses and deploy networks based on initial access to their customers through this vital element. And, access to the consumers through this element is needed to improve the service the consumer receives over the exiting network. Big Telecom’s desire to burn the Bridge 2 Broadband will put many customers in multiple communities at risk.
It is possible the FCC could decide on the future of loops at their meeting on August 1st.
Resale: “One Call, Connect All”
One of the greatest competitive innovations from the Telecom Act of 1996 was business friendly services like “one call, connect all.” A service that enables businesses — like a local bank or car dealership with multiple branches, or Fortune 500 companies with retail locations in all 50 states — to streamline their communication and broadband needs.
Resale’s “one call, connect all” service has been instrumental in nationwide economic growth. And the nation’s top CIOs are going to be furious if the FCC takes away their competitive provider, forcing them to have to deal with headaches and higher prices from Big Telecom monopolies.
How weak is Big Telecom’s case for ending resale? Well, they didn’t even put a single piece of economic analysis into the FCC record.
“Milking” the Old…
The Big Telecom companies would like the FCC to believe the nation has plenty of broadband competition. It doesn’t. They argue bipartisan competition laws have been around long enough, and it’s time for government forced forbearance.
But the truth is the Big Telecom companies have already been granted natural forbearance. All they need to do is move away from old lines, and upgrade to newer faster networks — then the competition laws they hate don’t apply.
If Big Telecom companies already have this incentive to move to new networks, but are lobbying to raise prices on the old, it should give great pause to the FCC and any policymaker looking to increase network deployment that helps bring faster internet to millions of Americans.
You can learn more, and take action to help STOP the “Competition Cut Off” and SAVE the Bridge 2 Broadband here.