Every other year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) completes a report on the state of competition in the telecommunications marketplace. This report, which is transmitted to Congress, examines competition among internet service providers across the country and the FCC’s actions to ensure a competitive marketplace. Previous reports and current stakeholders have claimed that the marketplace is robust and performing well for the American consumer, however, Next Century Cities disagrees. NCC members, from rural to urban areas, can attest that a lack of competition is keeping prices high and choices low in their communities.
Working alongside communities of all stripes to improve affordable broadband options, on May 28, 2020, NCC submitted reply comments in response to the FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics’ call for public input. The filing documented challenges in NCC member Louisville, Kentucky, where less than half of residents have access to a feasible second broadband option. Local leaders in Louisville and in the Kentucky state government took action in 2019 to invest $5.4 Million in middle mile fiber that officials hope will continue to attract competition. In Pennsylvania, home to three NCC members, a recent report revealed that ~6.25% of residents lack any broadband access. In fact, the report found that, in 2018, no Pennsylvania county had at least 50% of residents receiving broadband that met FCC minimum speeds. To increase competition in their commonwealth, advocates and local leaders faced a two pronged problem: inaccurate mapping data and well-resourced incumbent providers creating barriers to entry. These two obstacles, working in concert, create an almost insurmountable battle to achieve progress.
NCC continues to support members working to expand their broadband access and urges the Commission to explore competition from various perspectives, especially that of residents and municipal governments. Otherwise, residents in similarly situated communities will continue to struggle with ways to get online.