2014 February

Availability of Broadband in the United States Is Two to Three Times Greater than in the European Union

Posted by | Broadband Internet, International | 2 Comments

Advocates for increasing regulation of broadband providers in the United States frequently point to Europe’s highly regulated broadband market as an example the US should emulate — if only their claims were true. A new research report prepared by a PhD fellow in Internet economics at Aalborg University in Denmark concludes that, “The data unequivocally demonstrate that the US exceeds the EU [European Union] on a number of important broadband measures.”

The most dramatic difference is in the availability of high-speed Internet technologies, including Internet speeds of 100 Mbps or greater, fourth generation (4G) wireless LTE broadband, fiber to the home (FTTH), and broadband over cable systems. This chart comparing the availability of broadband technologies, which uses data from the report, illustrates the stark differences between broadband deployment in the US and the EU. (Click on the chart to enlarge it.)

CBIT-blog-EU v US chart

Europe’s struggle with broadband availability is largely due to the lack of private investment in broadband infrastructure within the EU. Read More

Net Neutrality Opinion Indicates Internet Service Providers Are Entitled to First Amendment Protection

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Freedom of Speech | No Comments

Verizon v. FCC, the court decision overturning the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules, didn’t rule directly on the First Amendment issues. It did, however, reject the reasoning of net neutrality advocates who claim Internet service providers (ISPs) are not entitled to freedom of speech.

The court recognized that, in terms of the functionality that it offers consumers and the economic relationships among industry participants, the Internet is as similar to analog cable networks as it is to analog telephone networks. As a result, the court considered most of the issues in the net neutrality case to be “indistinguishable” from those addressed in Midwest Video II, a seminal case addressing the FCC’s authority over cable systems. The court’s emphasis on the substantive similarities between analog cable services, which are clearly entitled to First Amendment protection, indicates that ISPs are likewise entitled to protection.

Net neutrality advocates argued that ISPs are not First Amendment “speakers” because ISPs do not exercise editorial discretion over Internet content. In essence, these advocates argued that ISPs forfeited their First Amendment rights as a result of their “actual conduct” in the marketplace.

Though the court didn’t address the First Amendment issues directly, the court’s reasoning regarding common carrier issues indicates that the “actual conduct” of ISPs is legally irrelevant to their status as First Amendment speakers. Read More

Retransmission Consent Complaints Don’t Withstand Market Analysis

Posted by | Video | No Comments

It appears that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is returning to a competition-based approach to communications regulation. Chairman Wheeler’s emphasis on “competition, competition, competition” indicates his intent to intervene in communications markets only when it is necessary to correct a market failure.

I expect most on both sides of the political spectrum would welcome a return to rigorous market analysis at the FCC, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. The American Television Alliance (ATVA), whose FCC petition wouldn’t withstand even a cursory market power analysis, is sure to be among the displeased.

The ATVA petition asks the FCC to regulate prices for retransmission consent (the prices video service providers (VSPs) pay for the rights to provide broadcast television programming to pay-TV subscribers) because retransmission fees and competition among VSPs are increasing. Though true, this data doesn’t indicate that TV stations or broadcast television networks have market power — it indicates that legislative and policy efforts to increase competition among VSPs are working. Read More