At his home in a Virginia suburb of Washington, DC, FCC chairman Ajit Pai enjoys something most Americans don’t: a choice in who delivers high-speed internet. Pai’s address is serviced by both Comcast and Verizon, with Xfinity download speeds up to 200Mbps, and Fios speeds up to 500Mbps. Verizon’s packages even include rare synchronous download / upload speeds, instead of the crippled upload speeds most ISPs force on their customers.
So it’s a shame the FCC’s message on competition has been broken since Pai took over as chairman. In a Washington Post op-ed today, the chairs of the FCC and FTC joined forces to defend the ISP data-sharing bill, and ended up making the absurd analogy that Verizon can’t be a monopoly because it has less broadband market share than Google does in search engines. The FCC did not give a comment on this story.
Let’s check the internet competition scoreboard from the commission’s latest broadband report:
America is a still in a desert of competition for internet access.
The key column in this chart is the 25Mbps section, since no serious person thinks 3–10Mbps is “high-speed” anything. Indeed, that’s why the FCC changed the definition of broadband to connections with download speeds of 25Mbps and above in 2015 — the same year this report came out. And using that bar, roughly 78 percent of Americans have either no high-speed access or just one provider. Chairman Pai lives in the lush green zone at the top right of this chart, where there’s competition between ISPs offering truly high-speed internet.
An oasis of broadband choice in the US is just having a choice to make at all. Of course, in the temperate suburbs of DC, oasis might not be the right word. Maybe it’s more like a swamp.