The U.S. is Creating a Massive New Cable Broadband Monopoly
We've been talking for more than a year about how Verizon is jacking up DSL prices and returning to forcing DSL users to bundle costly landline service in order to drive those users to their new cable industry BFFs
, resulting in a stronger cable monopoly. Elsewhere, Verizon is using Sandy damage as an excuse to abandon millions of customers, refusing to repair downed lines and offering a lower quality Voice Link wireless voice only service as a "replacement
This is one of the biggest transitions in telecom in thirty years, and as such you'd think the mainstream press would notice it was going on. However, they've been notably absent from the necessary conversation about what we're supposed to do for these abandoned users. As such, it's nice to see the Washington Post
this week finally notice what Verizon's up to, even if the coverage doesn't see the full picture yet. The Post
does a good job with regional anecdotes from users whose life previously relied on copper infrastructure Verizon no longer wants to keep running:
His phone lines intermittently go out of service, but Verizon has declined his request for repairs, he said. His credit card machine stopped working on a recent Saturday evening at his restaurant Landing at Ocean Beach. He hopped from table to table, scribbling credit card numbers and asking for signatures on payment slips he created on a Word document printed out from his computer. "We got a lot of suspicious looks," Randazzo said. "I can’t run a business like this so I’m going to have to change services."
almost-but-not-quite realizes that forced migration is the whole point. Verizon has a new co-marketing agreement with the cable industry to promote their wireless services, so they're pushing all of their remaining DSL users
toward cable operators, who'll then promote wireless services. Except this isn't just about Sandy victims; this is occurring nationally with both AT&T and Verizon. Both argue that heavily capped and pricey wireless data services are a good enough replacement. They aren't. If you disagree, have your family stream a month of HD Netflix over capped LTE, then get back to me.
Picture a future where AT&T and Verizon allow huge swaths of in-use copper infrastructure to simply rot, ceding a massive chunk of U.S. fixed-line broadband market (the tens of millions of users not upgraded to FiOS or U-Verse) to increasingly consolidating
cable operators. The U.S. broadband market already suffers from massive competitive problems. Imagine what happens when cable operators have even less competitive pressure than they do now.
Regardless of what you think about the telcos' financial justifications, this is a transition that needs a serious conversation. However, AT&T and Verizon are bull-rushing the show, with Sandy victims being only the tip of the iceberg. It took the press a year to notice any of this has been happening, leading one to wonder how long it will take them to realize the full scope of the anti-competitive ambitions at play.