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FCC commissioner blasts ISPs for raising broadband prices

A member of the Federal Communications Commission blasted Internet service providers for raising prices for some of its broadband services recently, just as the agency attempts to bring more affordable access to U.S. households.

Democratic member Mignon Clyburn said in a statement that increases in prices, like that announced by Comcast earlier this week, indicate there isn’t enough competition among Internet service providers. And she said the agency needs to look into the competitive landscape to ensure affordability and faster speeds for users.

“Just as we are in the process of proposing steps to ensure that more people are comfortable signing up for broadband service, providers of that very service are raising prices,” Clyburn said in a statement. Other ISPs, besides Comcast have raised prices recently, including AT&T.

Comcast raised its monthly basic tier price for broadband by $2 in New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania.

“This is an issue we must examine closely going forward. ... Across-the-board price increases, especially on those who can least afford it, should raise a red flag for the Commission,” Clyburn said.

The commissioner said 36 percent of people who don’t get broadband say they don’t because of costs. Some 15 percent point to monthly subscription fees as a primary reason they don’t get broadband. Another 9 percent say they don’t want to be in a long-term contract or pay the high installation fees.

Public interest groups say the agency’s national broadband plan, to be served up to Congress next week, doesn’t seem to sufficiently address how to bring in more competition – which they believe will lead to lower prices and faster speeds. They say there needs to be a market-by-market analysis of how many providers are there and what prices and speeds they are offering.

Comcast said it seldom raises prices and consistently increase speeds for broadband access.

“We haven’t increased the price of our service in more than five years and about half of our customers are currently in promotions and won’t be impacted by this change," said Jennifer Koury, a spokeswoman for Comcast.

Free Press research director Derek Turner and policy director Ben Scott stopped by The Post this morning and talked about how the agency needs to evaluate how certain policies can increase competition and be an integral part of its national broadband plan. Without competition, they said, the plan will fail to meet goals set to bring affordable and faster Internet speeds to users.

First, the agency should do a market-by-market analysis of where competition is lacking. In New York, for example, a race between Verizon Communications, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision for subscribers has led to some of the fastest offered speeds. In a rural area, with just one DSL and cable Internet provider, that may not be the case.

Specific policies can promote competition depending on the market, they said. Those could include special access reform, caps on how much spectrum the largest wireless carriers can buy when the FCC releases 500 megahertz of spectrum for auction, and line-sharing agreements, they say.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 10, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Comcast , FCC  
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Comments

It's significant that, when covering this story, Ms. Kang -- whose blog contains ads placed by Google -- immediately called upon two Google lobbyists, who have no experience with the provision of broadband, to comment on it. She also neglects to mention that the price increases were caused by an FCC order for which Google -- and the two abovementioned lobbyists -- lobbied. The FCC requirementsraised costs, and so the company needed to raise prices. But Ms. Kang, who is violating fundamental principles of journalistic ethics by biasing her stories in favor of Google, won't tell you that. The post should fire Ms. Kang at once so that she can move to the PR position at Google for which she is obviously bucking.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | March 10, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

It is significant, that Brett Glass feels he can call two people "Google lobbyists", even though that is 100 percent false.

He's also in fantasy land, that Comcast's price increases were a result of the FCC. Comcast's costs declined last year. These price are just a company doing what companies in uncompetitive markets do.

But Brett's continued attacks on a good reporter are what is really disturbing. He was allegedly institutionalized for stalking a well-known reporter. Watch out folks, he is a mentally ill liar. Lock your doors and protect your children.

Posted by: AmyBandini | March 10, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

On my statement, Comcast bundles the internet and tv prices together, so it's not obvious what I pay for internet. (&lol it actually shows $10 for that line amount).I don't believe the internet fees per se, have gone up in the last 4-5 years, but they did raise the tv fees last year, so the end result is the same. And unless the owner's associatn where i live allows a dish, I have one choice besides comcast for broadband: verizon. A decade ago, I had many chocies for broadband, & I had great service.

Posted by: Hattrik | March 10, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

As usual, "Amy Bandini" can only respond to my legitimate and well founded remarks with lies, slander and vitriol. Is she merely Cecilia posting under another name? Or a Google lobbyist herself?

In any event, here are the facts. Derek Turner and Ben Scott are indeed lobbyists for Google. They work for an outfit called "Free Press," which is an "astroturf" (fake grass roots) lobbying organization. This group budges not one micron from Google's corporate agenda on any issue. It refuses to disclose its funding sources, but accepts funds from foundations to which Google contributes and where Google executives are administrators. It's unknown whether it also receives direct contributions from Google or from Google executives, because -- contrary to what one would a expect from a group that advocates media "transparency" -- it refuses to disclose its list of donors, as honest nonprofits do. Is this the sort of organization which would normally be quoted in the mainstream media? I don't think so... unless, perhaps, the reporter is pushing the same corporate agendas.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | March 10, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

As usual, Brett Glass can only lob lies, slander and vitrol at those who for whatever reason, support certain polices, or merely write about policies, but then whines like a little baby when the allegations that have been made against him are mentioned.

I've followed Brett's online musings for years, and he basically has slowly descended into a paranoid state, where he sees Google conspiracies everywhere people dare to actually support policies that may have some overlap with Googles. He even thinks me, a retired grandmother of 8, is the author of this blog or a Google lobbyist.

But his blind paranoia would be merely laughable if it hadn't as some people allege, descended into dangerous violence. Folks, some people have levied some very serious allegations against Brett, and these allegations fit into a larger history of other allegations of stalking and other violent behavior. If you live anywhere near Laramie, and are a customer of Brett's, please don't use your Internet connection to write anything that might be considered pro-net neutrality, lest he do some of the things that some people allege he did to other customers.

Posted by: AmyBandini | March 10, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

It's truly amazing to what depths these DC lobbyists will sink. The above is slanderous, defamatory, and false.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | March 11, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I am not quite sure why the FCC is upset about the increase in prices. This is exactly what they should have expected when they adopted the "duopoly" scenario for broadband - two providers are enough for competition - and killed off the majority of the small ISPs. In the old days of dial-up the competition was strong and prices were in a downward spiral. By blocking "fair and equal" access to the lines for broadband (which was protected by the Computer Rules of the 1980's) the FCC guaranteed the collapse of competition and the rise of prices.

Bring back "Fair and Equal", do a structural separation between wholesale and retail, enforce fair pricing of the wholesale level and the retail "competition" level will take care of the ridiculous charges that the Monopolist model brings us.

Posted by: bathrick | March 11, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

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