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.
March 10, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories: Comcast , FCC
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