dslreports logo
site
spacer

spacer
 
   
spc
story category
Blair Levin Still Ignoring Lack Of Broadband Competition
Now downplaying high prices as well
by Karl Bode 09:13AM Wednesday Nov 03 2010 Tipped by FFH See Profile
We already noted that while our first ever national broadband plan looked impressive, upon closer inspection it was a series of politically safe goals that would likely be reached with or without government involvement. While the plan marked one of the first times the FCC used hard data (which is terrifying when you consider how long they've been making policy), it also failed to tackle the sector's biggest problem: competition -- or more accurately the lack thereof. One primary reason for that was plan architect Blair Levin, who gave Comcast and AT&T a sloppy kiss by not embracing open access policies -- despite FCC studies showing that this improves competition.

At the time Levin took great offense at any criticism that pointed out the plan completely failed to tackle competition. Now that Levin has left the FCC and moved on to life in a profitable think tank, he offers some hindsight to the CNET of what his team got right or wrong (he believes he got it mostly right, of course). Amusingly, Levin again conducts an entire interview on broadband without once mentioning a lack of competition. Levin does briefly mention high costs (a direct result of limited competition), but he steamrolls over it:
quote:
Affordability was a factor for some people. But the larger issue has to do with relevance. Even though there are a lot of low-income people who may not be able to afford multi-channel video (cable TV), there is still a high proportion of people subscribing to the service. And people are not leaving in huge numbers. The big difference between TV and broadband is that to watch TV, you don't have to be literate. The same is true of phone service. You don't need to be literate to use a cell phone, so penetration of those services is higher.
Ultimately Levin decided to spend more time using the plan to focusing on digital literacy than competition -- but the problem is that without tackling competition, improving literacy means nothing if users can't afford the service. While hyping "digital literacy" feels good and is one of the few things a bickering partisan Congress could agree on, in reality a lot of these "education" programs being proposed were little more than broadband ISP advertisements.

Apparently if you never actually acknowledge a lack of competition in the U.S. Broadband sector, you don't have to address the fact you spent years on a national broadband plan that ignored the sector's largest and most obvious problem.

view:
topics flat nest 

Duramax08
To The Moon
Premium
join:2008-08-03
San Antonio, TX
Reviews:
·Millenicom

Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

There is competition IF you want it. Here is options for some people.

-Top Picks-
Cable, probably one ISP
DSL, probably one ISP
Fiber (if possible), probably one ISP

-The other ones-
Satellite, Hughes and Wild Blue
3G Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, sprint
4G Wireless, Sprint, Clear
Other wireless, Like mom and pop shops

Most people would pick from the top if possible. If you cant get any of those, theres always wireless. Some people might not like it due to its wireless, not always reliable, and high latency but hey, its broadband. Faster then dial up
--
In reviewing your account, I see that DSL Basic service should be available at your address. However, you are at the very edge of DSL availability. You must be within 15 Kft of our equipment in order to subscribe to DSL service. You are at 14.920 Kft.

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:39

1 edit

2 recommendations

Re: Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

Oh good, we're using old FCC logic. So many people will be glad to know they secretly have the choice of 7-8 ISPs.

3G and 4G aren't real home choices as the industry is moving toward incredibly low and punitive caps.

Meanwhile, Hughes and Wild Blue are to broadband as Lindsay Lohan is to acting.

Most people have the choice of overpriced DSL or overpriced cable -- and that's if they're lucky.

Duramax08
To The Moon
Premium
join:2008-08-03
San Antonio, TX

Re: Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

They might be some sucky ISP's mostly known for their caps but its better then nothing I guess and people do have a choice, well a limited choice. But dont get me wrong, I would love to have a landline anyday and get rid of my wireless.

BBBanditRuR
Dingbits

join:2009-06-02
Parachute, CO

Re: Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

If ISP's were equal in service (and they're not), then you can pull out the choices act. 1.54 Mbps DSL is not the same as 12 Mbps Cable... If they were equal in service & price, then you can say there's options...
nasadude

join:2001-10-05
Rockville, MD
actually, if you're lucky you have a choice of overpriced fiber

Camelot One
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-21
Greenwood, IN
kudos:2

Re: Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

said by nasadude:

actually, if you're lucky you have a choice of overpriced fiber
I haven't found fiber to be over priced at all.

fg8578

join:2009-04-26
Salem, OR
So the answer is to demand that telcos and cablecos invest all the money while letting their competitors share in the rewards?

Wow, Title II much?
sonicmerlin

join:2009-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:1

Re: Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

said by fg8578:

So the answer is to demand that telcos and cablecos invest all the money while letting their competitors share in the rewards?

Wow, Title II much?
The rewards of what? Collecting monopoly rent on infrastructure partly subsidized by the public? Right of ways, tax breaks, a police force that prevents violent retaliation, a court of law that enables the telcos to crush viable competitors- these are all freebies given to corporations.

No corporation has a right to profit, and if Title II makes it easier for competitors to make a profit and build their own network (like Free.fr in France), ultimately lowering prices and benefiting consumers, then it's obvious Title II needs to be enacted.

fg8578

join:2009-04-26
Salem, OR

Re: Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

If you think right of way is free, that makes the rest of your comments suspect.

jazzlady

join:2005-08-04
Tannersville, PA
said by Karl Bode:

Oh good, we're using old FCC logic. So many people will be glad to know they secretly have the choice of 7-8 ISPs.

Most people have the choice of overpriced DSL or overpriced cable -- and that's if they're lucky.
You're right.

Here are my choices- Verizon 1.5 Mbps DSL.

Cable- which I have. 15/2, $55 a month, with a 50 GB monthly cap.

Wow. Glad I have so much to choose from... :-(
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO
Just because you may have alternative choices does not mean competition and you showed us the prime example there.

Duramax08
To The Moon
Premium
join:2008-08-03
San Antonio, TX
Reviews:
·Millenicom

Re: Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

said by Skippy25:

Just because you may have alternative choices does not mean competition and you showed us the prime example there.
I hear ya. Thought Id just throw that info out there.

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5
Ultimately Levin decided to spend more time using the plan to focusing on digital literacy than competition -- but the problem is that without tackling competition, improving literacy means nothing if users can't afford the service.
If it comes down to AFFORDING the service, there are better things the Feds can be doing with their billions of dollars. Like making sure that more, higher paying jobs stay in the U.S. instead by enforcing WTO rules with Asian countries like China & India. And making sure the tax code doesn't reward companies sending jobs overseas. I'd prefer the billions be spent enforcing our existing trade laws instead of ignoring them.

coldmoon
Premium
join:2002-02-04
Broadway, NC
Reviews:
·Windstream

1 recommendation

Re: Lack of competition in broadband, Get out of here!

said by FFH:

Ultimately Levin decided to spend more time using the plan to focusing on digital literacy than competition -- but the problem is that without tackling competition, improving literacy means nothing if users can't afford the service.
If it comes down to AFFORDING the service, there are better things the Feds can be doing with their billions of dollars. Like making sure that more, higher paying jobs stay in the U.S. instead by enforcing WTO rules with Asian countries like China & India. And making sure the tax code doesn't reward companies sending jobs overseas. I'd prefer the billions be spent enforcing our existing trade laws instead of ignoring them.
If you really want to see more jobs created and the economy start moving again, you need to deal with the infrastructure. In the 50's it was the Interstate Highway system; in the 21st century it is the Information Highway. Those countries you protest against in your reply are spending the money to improve theirs. So the real question you need to ask yourself is whether you really want the US to lead or become the new third world swamp it is turning into...

JMHO
Mike
--
Returnil - 21st Century body armor for your PC
FredIsDead

join:2010-02-24
San Antonio, TX

but how?

How would you add competition?

Force the telcos to share their already too slow copper?

Force the cablecos to share their bandwidth constrained network?

federal overbuild of fiber with our bankrupt government?

Doc
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: but how?

Good question. A lot of people like to banter about lack of competition, but most fail to bring viable solutions to the table.
Angrychair

join:2000-09-20
Jacksonville, FL
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: but how?

said by openbox9:

Good question. A lot of people like to banter about lack of competition, but most fail to bring viable solutions to the table.
Just eliminate all regulation. THAT WILL FIX IT!

DERP!

vzw emp

@144.191.148.x

Re: but how?

said by Angrychair:

said by openbox9:

Good question. A lot of people like to banter about lack of competition, but most fail to bring viable solutions to the table.
Just eliminate all regulation. THAT WILL FIX IT!

DERP!
You were kidding, right?
AlfredNewman

join:2010-03-25
Columbus, OH
Could do what Maine is doing by laying down middle-mile fiber in a huge ring inside the state. Or the several other muni-built fiber networks. Take avantage of the funding to buildout a fiber network within a city/state and then lease it to ISPs, ISPs that would normally have to pay exorborant amounts of money to lease a line from AT&T/Verizon/Comcast/etc...

This in theory and in practice has been noted to work fairly well and is cheaper than the so called competition that was controlling things before. The only downside is having to fight with those incumbents to build the network for the citizens. Maine had to deal with Fairpoint (after they bought out Verizons network), Wilson, NC had to fight tooth and nail against AT&T/Time Warner Cable, the same Chattanooga, TN, and with a few other cities in various other states in which plans eventually went forward to buildout and give the people what they wanted.
sonicmerlin

join:2009-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:1
Share the copper, ala Title II.

Our government isn't bankrupt, nor is it even close. A federal overbuild of fiber would provide annual revenue to the government.
talz13

join:2006-03-15
Avon, OH
said by FredIsDead:

federal overbuild of fiber with our bankrupt government?
"in for an inch in for a mile" :shrug:

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA

Is a waste of time...companies will continue

putting money into big cities and/or select areas and ignoring other areas.

Any "national" plan will fail miserably as the companies will cry foul if they are forced to actually give others reasonable internet

linicx
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2002-12-03
United State
Reviews:
·TracFone Wireless
·CenturyLink

Fie!!!

You gotta be kidding?How does one have competitive Broadband in the Midwest rural areas where it is owned by one phone company that will not allow competition? And the answer is ...........?

We have more than a few million square miles that are treated like the runt pup of the littler with the worst tech support and a the puniest amount of Broadband possible and still be able to call the barely faster than dial up connection Broadband.

FCC is the butt of a very bad joke. Try not taking those big telco $$$ and maybe someone on that feckless commission can grow a pair.

It's wishful thinking.
--
Mac: No windows, No Gates, Apple inside

Anon6

@comcast.net

lol

What a joke! And consumers put up with it! People need to just do without and let these industries lose BIG!!

Anon6

@comcast.net
when the government stops taking bribes from the industry then maybe things would change for the better.
fpilot

join:2007-02-24
Camino, CA
Blair Levin perpetuates false distinction among IP-based services

»eldotelecom.blogspot.com/2010/11···lse.html

Blair Levin stuck in the failed paradigm of investor owned telecom infrastructure

»eldotelecom.blogspot.com/2010/10···-of.html

Blair Levin

@aspeninst.org
Karl,

Blair Levin here. A friend was kind enough to send your latest post regarding an interview I recently gave and I must say I found it highly amusing. First, you refer to my “profitable” think tank existence. You must know something I don’t know about my financial arrangements with the Aspen Institute. I’m not complaining—very nice people here—but profitable is not the right adjective to describe my presence here.

Second, you imply you once wrote something nice about the plan. I can’t claim I read all your posts, nor that my memory is perfect. I am pretty certain, however, you were a model of perfect consistency in insisting the plan, the process, and everything about it was always and completely flawed. But if I missed your praise, please don’t hesitate to correct me.

Third, you note that I spent “years” on the plan. It may have felt that way to you—it sometimes felt that way to those of us working 80 hour weeks and it felt like decades to my wife---but in truth, my work on the plan took less than a year.

But there is no reason to beat around the bush about the important substantive disagreement that you and I have: you believe that the only important broadband policy is to require facilities based ISPs to unbundle. I do not. That is an honorable disagreement and I would be happy to discuss it with you whenever we are in the same city. I have only two conditions. First, your readers must have access to the entire discussion. And second, that you answer one question before hand: what is the wholesale discount rate that you think would be required to attract the capital necessary for an unbundling based new entrant to provide long-term competition? (There are reasons this turns out to be an important question---though not the only one—about the potential effectiveness of an unbundling strategy but if it is not answered, it is difficult to have a serious debate on the subject.)

I hope you find those conditions acceptable as I think it would be a fun and illuminating discussion.

And by the way, your most recent criticism of my comments on adoption ignores that I was merely reporting the analysis of everyone who has actually studied the problem---that relevance turns out to be a bigger problem than price. I hate to refer folks to a competitor but Nate Anderson had a thoughtful piece citing the latest study today at: »arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news···band.ars.

Sincerely,

Blair Levin

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:39

2 edits

Re: response from Blair Levin

you imply you once wrote something nice about the plan. I can’t claim I read all your posts, nor that my memory is perfect. I am pretty certain, however, you were a model of perfect consistency in insisting the plan, the process, and everything about it was always and completely flawed. But if I missed your praise, please don’t hesitate to correct me.
Will do. Here's my original post on the plan, which actually highlights a number of positive things -- most notably the fact that the FCC finally appears to be using real data instead of lobbyist pie charts. It also, and here's where I've obtained "perfect consistency," notes the plan is heavy on showmanship and doesn't seriously tackle competition.
But there is no reason to beat around the bush about the important substantive disagreement that you and I have: you believe that the only important broadband policy is to require facilities based ISPs to unbundle. I do not.
My criticism goes well beyond unbundling, even if I do think the Australian approach to open access will see significantly more competitive traction than your plan -- which apparently addresses competition by ignoring it completely.

The title of this piece is the root of my criticism: as someone who has tracked your comments regularly, you rarely acknowledge that there's a lack of competition in the space, yet that's the biggest barrier to accomplishing something in this sector -- be it lowering prices for the marginalized, or preventing network neutrality violations without having to craft hard rules.

The entire CNET article in question goes by without you mentioning the word once (perhaps it was edited out?). High price of service is mentioned once, but trampled over quickly as some kind of tertiary and quickly fleeting concern.

To me the plan tries to convince people that if we focus on things like digital literacy and adoption hard enough, the public will collectively forget that most users (if they're lucky) have the choice of one or two providers -- one of them offering sub-par DSL service that won't be upgraded anytime soon.

I'm well aware there's very real political and legal obstacles that bridled the plan; to me discussing and solving these would take priority over debating wholesale discount rates for unbundled access policies you don't believe in anyway. I'm happy to go there, but perhaps we should start more broadly -- like the fact we can afford two wars but not serious infrastructure investment, or more specific perhaps discussing the fact it's 2011 and we still haven't mapped broadband access in the United States properly.