Broadband Access Debates Speed Up

A public debate is on over the FCC's decision to not require telephone companies to sell DSL to competitors at regulated rates.

The Federal Communications Commission earlier this month voted to no longer require telephone companies to sell DSL services to independent competitors at regulated rates, changing the landscape of the broadband market.

While the decision is final, the public debate is heating up.

"If you deregulate a marketplace that is controlled by two technologies, its disingenuous to say youre creating a free market," said Ben Scott, policy director at Free Press, a nonprofit media reform organization trying to push affordable broadband access.

The FCC and phone companies have argued that the deregulation will allow large DSL providers to not only compete with cable modem providers, which have long been untouched by regulators, but enhance their service as well.

Consumer advocates like Free Press believe it will decrease the competition by eliminating smaller ISPs from the mix.

Its also not a given that dominant phone companies will immediately ramp up their innovation.

"The one thing the FCC lacks is a stick to go after the phone companies if they dont improve their networks," said Joe Laszlo, research director at analyst firm JupiterResearch in New York.

"Now that providers are essentially freed from these regulatory obligations, it is incumbent on the FCC to make sure those steps are taken."

In a response to the FCCs report in July touting the growing numbers of broadband subscribers and availability, Free Press, along with the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union, the publisher of "Consumer Reports," also published "Broadband Reality Check," which challenged the FCCs overly "rosy picture."

The groups will take their findings to Congress to encourage a change in policy to increase broadband availability, affordability and adoption.

In particular, the authors challenge the FCCs definition of high speed and how the regulatory body measures broadband availability.


U.S. FCC eases regulations on DSL broadband.

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"200K bps (kilobits per second) is a very shoddy definition of broadband," said Scott.

He argues that those speeds dont even meet the requirements set forward by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which says broadband must provide "high-quality voice, data, graphics and video telecommunications."

Next Page: Reporting on broadband called into question.