September 4, 2014

FCC to promote broadband competition

The agency chairman says Americans have few or no choices when it comes to buying high-speed Internet services

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that meaningful competition for high-speed broadband service is lacking in the United States and that the commission will take steps to promote more choices, particularly for wired in-home service.

The chairman, Tom Wheeler, said in a speech at 1776, a startup incubator, that while high-speed broadband is available to most U.S. homes, a much smaller portion has a choice of more than one provider of service of greater than 25 megabits per second, what he called “table stakes” for the use of broadband’s most valuable services.

Wheeler said the commission would not seek greater regulation but would encourage and promote competition where it does not exist, including rural areas. And he said the FCC would oppose mergers that reduce competition.

That potentially could affect the proposed acquisition by Comcast of Time Warner. Those companies do not compete head-to-head in any markets, but their merger would eliminate a platform that could expand to offer more choices for individual consumers.

One step the commission is contemplating is whether states should be allowed to ban municipalities from offering high-speed Internet service.

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