The FCC has decided to give AT&T a break and allow it to raise rates for business customers and other companies using its facilities.
I find the FCC’s reasoning less than compelling. For example, Commissioner McDowell suggests the deployment of wireless technologies is legitimate competition for broadband.
“As competition in the broadband market continues to grow, especially through the deployment of new wireless technologies, less regulation should be required. However, many parties allege that competition in the special access market is uneven and is limited to certain urban areas, thus creating supply bottlenecks that favor incumbent local exchange carriers in the business broadband and wireless markets. Despite requests for better data to help us resolve disputes of these material facts, the Commission still has inadequate information to determine whether allegations that competition is scarce in certain segments of the special access market have merit.”
Commissioner McDowell’s statement, particularly the reference to wireless technology, makes me think the FCC doesn’t have enough data to support assertions that legitimate broadband competition exists enough to relax broadband rules for AT&T. WiFi Networks, such as Google WiFi, are available in only a few select cities, have spotty coverage areas, are testing an unproven business model. As the industry stands today, the FCC is counting chickens before they hatch if relying upon WiFi Networks as reason to relax rules for AT&T. Coffee houses, hotels, and some other service companies provide wireless access however those are limited in scope and reach, therefore not providing any real competition in broadband. And wireless Internet access via mobile phones should not be considered broadband at this stage.
The more I learn about mass communication technologies, the FCC, and the overall regulatory environment, the more I believe the conduit (wires, cables, spectrum used by wifi and satellite, etc.) should be regulated to provide full access to competition. The companies that connect to people through those conduits should each be considered common carriers. Then competitors would be guaranteed full access to the consumer and a reasonable profit margin would be guaranteed (10% sounds about right) to the owner of the conduit. Otherwise, we end up with uncontrollable monopolies that stifle innovation and ream the pocket books of consumers, neither of which are in the public interest.