Broadband Competition NOW
Broadband competition is driving network deployment. Smaller, local broadband builders are leading the fiber revolution, deploying the 5G backbone. They bring faster speeds and lower prices. In many parts of rural America, local competitive broadband providers are customers’ ONLY high-speed connection to the internet.
Broadband competition is the law of the land. Smart, bipartisan competition policy has created two decades of economic growth and unleashed over $4 trillion in investment.
But broadband competition is in DANGER.
The big telecom providers, led by AT&T, are lobbying the FCC to end broadband competition, kill the wholesale market, and cut off customers who have chosen a smaller, local service provider.
This includes residential customers, small businesses, schools, libraries, public safety organizations, local governments and government agencies including the US military who rely on the Bridge 2 Broadband to connect our troops in the field. These customers and taxpayers are at risk of massive broadband price hikes and being stuck with no choice when it comes to their provider.
AT&T and big telecom companies have been trying to kill competition for decades. Their trade group, USTelecom, just spent 18 months pushing a petition at the FCC that was a poison pill for new broadband builders.
Incumbent providers want to escape their obligations under Section 251 of the Communications Act which require them to provide wholesale access to unbundled network elements (UNEs) and certain services. These methods of wholesale access are critical to providing a means of competitive entry that spurs fiber building and innovation. They serve as vital bridges connecting customers to broadband competition.
This petition was rejected after a deep review of the record, including over 11,000 letters from customers who wrote the FCC in support of more competition and better customer service. But just a few short months latter, Big Telecom is back at the FCC trying to steal a victory from consumers and competition.
Their new plan is to pressure the five FCC Commissioners to pass a rule change eliminating competition and enabling monopoly broadband providers to raise prices.
The big telecom companies like AT&T are drowning in record debt. Rather than investing in new networks, AT&T has spent years on mega mergers and bad deals – like buying Direct TV, HBO and CNN – and now they want YOU to pay for it!
AT&T has a record $150 million in debt. Company filings and Wall Street analysts say their plan to pay it back calls for “milking” profits from OLD networks, not investing in new ones. Even after receiving billions in tax breaks, billions in government subsidies, and billions in regulatory relief the company fired workers and cut billions from their network investment last year.
Why America Needs the Bridge 2 Broadband?
The Bridge 2 Broadband is a critical part of broadband marketplace and our greater network ecosystem. If you cut off access to this piece of the broadband puzzle, you threaten connections throughout the entire network.
Under the Telecom Act, competitive providers were guaranteed access to these bridges by law to help spur competition in the local marketplace. The law is just now starting to work as intended as small, local providers have popped up in different communities around the country seeking to deploy new networks. Cutting off their access prematurely will stop the deployment race before it even has a chance to really get going. All to the detriment of residential and small business customers across the nation who will face rising prices, slower speeds, poor service – or being cut off altogether.
Who’s at Risk?
Both residential and business customers are at risk.
USTelecom falsely claims that these broadband bridges don’t serve that many Americans – that they’re an inconsequential part of the broadband market. They even say NO residential customers receive service over the Bridge 2 Broadband. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Local competitive providers use these broadband bridges to connect hundreds of thousands of residential customers, small businesses, schools, libraries, public safety organizations, and local governments.
The bridges are a critical step in the fiber deployment process for many competitive providers. All of these customers and institutions are at risk of broadband prices hikes and being cut off if USTelecom’s petition is granted.
Why is the Bridge 2 Broadband so Important?
New Fiber Deployment
New fiber networks are transforming communities – they attract new businesses and start-ups. High-speed broadband helps create jobs, spur investment, and provide greater opportunities for education and research facilities.
Local, competitive providers use the wholesale market as an entry point to build up and connect a new customer base. Once that base is established, they invest in building fiber to the home, fiber to business, and fiber to rural, underserved communities. The bridges they use to connect their initial customer base are critical to our national deployment agenda – investing in building new networks would not be possible without the wholesale access piece of the broadband puzzle.
Competition from these small, local broadband providers building new fiber networks is the only thing forcing phone and cable company duopolies to upgrade their networks, increase their speeds, and lower prices. Unless a third, competitive provider enters the market, incumbents have no incentive to invest or upgrade. USTelecom’s members want to eliminate this threat of competition.
Rural Communities Are Hit Hardest
In many parts of rural America, local competitive providers utilizing the Bridge 2 Broadband are the customers’ ONLY connection to the internet. Utilizing old lines that have been deserted by incumbent providers, scrappy local broadband providers are employing their ingenuity and grit to add their own electronics to these old lines in order to provide broadband service where not even the incumbent will. These Broadband MacGyvers are connecting both business and residential customers across the country that otherwise would be abandoned on the wrong side of the digital divide.
After USTelecom lost the rural argument during the Forbearance Proceeding, the FCC suggested a “rural carve out” for the NPRM. But their standard falls short – leaving millions of Americans in small towns trapped by monopoly broadband control. The FCC should harmonize their rural standard with provisions set forth in the Farm Bill so that communities with 50,000 or fewer still have access to the Bridge2Broadband.
Broken Broadband Maps
Everyone agrees: The FCC’s broadband maps are broken. Yet the FCC is planning to use BAD DATA from the broken broadband maps to kill competition. All five FCC commissioners stated under record that the maps are “deeply flawed,” and the Chairman said: “We can’t make good decisions based on bad data.” We agree, so No new rules before new maps!
Wholesale Means Business
Multi-location customers, from nationwide retail chains to your local credit union, have turned to competitive providers offering ‘One Call, Connect All’ services to help solve their own customer service problems. Wholesale access allows businesses large and small to connect and expand into new markets with greater ease.
While the wholesale provisions of the Telecom Act don’t get many headlines, they’ve helped some of America’s leading brands thrive. Ask any COO from a company who’s had success with a competitive provider how they feel about the prospect of paying more or being forced to deal with a different provider for each market in which they operate. The logistical headache would hurt their growth and innovation, dampening a critical economic engine in our country.
Bridges That Anchor Communities
The Bridge 2 Broadband connects some of the most important institutions in our communities. Be it schools, hospitals, the fire department, police station, or highway patrol – it’s crucial for these entities to be connected so they can serve their communities.
Teachers, police and fire departments serve communities on tight budgets. Forcing them to pay AT&T a substantial broadband price hike is wrong. Taxpayers should not be compelled to pay higher rates for inferior service.
The Trump Administration recently wrote the FCC warning that retiring legacy networks too quickly in markets with few competitive offerings threatens to cut off critical national security and public safety institutions.
Local broadband providers serve hundreds of thousands of customers across America. Customers chose them for better customer service, innovation, and affordability. Instead of being forced to compete with these innovative local providers, big telecom would rather squash them in their tracks. Don’t let them.