Choke Points

Every time you send an email, withdraw money from an ATM, make a wireless call, or even swipe a credit card, your information must travel over high-capacity broadband lines known as ‘special access.’

Businesses, hospitals, local and federal governments, and even the national financial system rely on high-capacity broadband lines to connect to their networks, customers, branches, and locations around the country. Like the cable and telephone lines that connect residential customers to the long distance network and the Internet, special access lines connect each essential piece of the economy to the Internet, to long distance networks, to centralized databases, and to each other. But in nearly every industry and in nearly every region of the country, a few giant phone companies like AT&T or Verizon are the only source for this critical broadband input.

Special access users have few, if any, competitive alternatives. And in most instances, these few alternative competitors must lease the underlying phone network to provide service. This has allowed the phone companies to use their market power to raise prices to historically unprecedented highs, choking off usage, stifling innovation, and smothering cost-cutting opportunities for the rest of the economy that is forced to pay them.

Companies like AT&T and Verizon have exploited their market power in the geographic regions they control throughout the country by demanding outrageous prices, because they can. They control more than 90% of the commercial business addresses in the United States and 85% of markets across the country.

Excessive special access rates and unreasonable contract terms and conditions that keep customers captive drain dollars from business customers and competitive broadband providers, preventing them from building infrastructure and offering services necessary for broadband competition and innovation. This results in rising prices for consumers, delays the deployment of competitive broadband services – particularly in rural areas that need it most – and even slows the development of competitive broadband in more densely populated areas.

In the cable world , at least congress had the wisdom to ensure communities got something back in exchange for such exploitation, e.g the local cable franchise licensing which, in many cases, provides for public access to local channels. Public access stations in many areas , as well as in Worcester, are moving beyond cable limitations and into digital modes of transmission. There is no real practical or functional difference between phone broadband and cable broadband.
Shouldn’t broadband or special channel providers also be regulated to support your public access channel as well?

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