Tag: "competition"

Posted March 14, 2017 by lgonzalez

As federal agencies examine the potential consequences if the AT&T - Time Warner merger is allowed to proceed, how we analyze antitrust also needs to be reevaluated. 

A new report from the Roosevelt Institute takes a closer look at how antitrust enforcement philosophy has changed, how that change has enabled our current state telecommunications in which a few large anticompetitive players control the market. The authors offer recommendations and cautionary predictions that may arise if we continue without reassessing how we scrutinize these large scale mergers.

Authors Marshall Steinbaum and Andrew Hwang complement each other with economic and legal approaches. Steinbaum is Senior Economist and Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and has also written for Democracy, Boston Review, The American Prospect, and The New Republic. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Economics Department in 2014. Hwang is a legal fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and has also been an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, working on transactions involving securities issuance, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate lending. He received his J.D. from the Duke University School of Law in 2014 and B.A. in economics and political science from the University of Chicago in 2011.

The report notes how scrutiny of mergers has come to depend on the perceived harm the results will have on consumers, but such a narrow focus results in harming competition.

Instead, regulators should adopt a more holistic view of market power, specifically incorporating analysis of upstream impact of anticompetitive behaviors, especially those enabled by mergers. This would entail closer scrutiny of vertical mergers, positive price discrimination, and non-price-based schemes to profit excessively by withholding access to consumers.

Several specific recommendations caught our attention as particularly relevant approaches, including:

Regulators should utilize Section 2 of the Sherman Act to a greater degree by taking enforcement actions against antitrust violators, up to and including undoing previous mergers that have proven anti-competitive after the fact.

After all, we’ve learned that the Comcast NBCUniversal Merger completed in 2013 has resulted in anticompetitive behavior by Comcast, regardless of its promises to treat content providers other than its own... Read more

Posted March 2, 2017 by htrostle

This is episode 241 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. John Bergmayer from Public Knowledge joins the show to talk about the "bundle" in the cable industry. Are cable bundles a bargain as advertised? What do customers want? Listen to this episode here.

John Bergmayer: You know the structure of the programing industry and the structure of the cable industry means effectively they're not being served. They’re getting ripped off I believe.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 241 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self Reliance, I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Cable subscribers often complain about bundling. Being forced to choose from video packages that include channels they don't want in order to get access to the content they do want. Why are we stuck in this model? And what are the ramifications for service providers? Especially now that so much content is available via the Internet. What are some of the concerns smaller cable providers encounter when negotiating for content? This week, Christopher talks with John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel from Public Knowledge who explains why Comcast and Time Warner Cable and other cable companies are so in love with the bundle. They discuss why it's difficult to move past this model and whether or not bundles are a bargain, as they are described in advertising. Or something quite different. Now here's Christopher and John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at Public Knowledge, discussing unbundling and the world of cable.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today I'm speaking with John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel for Public Knowledge, a non-profit organization in Washington, DC. Welcome to the show!

John Bergmayer: Yeah, thanks for having me Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: John, can you tell us a little bit about what Public Knowledge does for people that haven't been around to hear past interviews with Chris Lewis and Harold Feld and other great people that you have on staff?

John Bergmayer: Sure, you know, we're a DC based public interest organization, or consumer group. We fight for consumer rights in a number of areas such as, telecommunications, cable TV, copyright... Read more

Posted March 1, 2017 by christopher

Susan Crawford has come back to the podcast to tell us about her recent travels in North Carolina and Tennessee, talking to people on the ground that have already built fiber-optic networks or are in the midst of figuring out how to get them deployed.

Susan is a professor at Harvard Law, the author of The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance and Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, and a champion for universal high quality Internet access.

We have an informal discussion that ranges from what is happening on the ground in North Carolina and Tennessee to the role of federal policy to why Susan feels that municipal wholesale approaches are important to ensuring we have better Internet access.

It was a real treat to have Susan back on the show and to just have a discussion about many of the issues that don't always come up in more formal presentations or media interviews. We hope you enjoy it! Susan was previously on episode 125 and episode 29.

Read the transcript for the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 21 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is ... Read more

Posted February 22, 2017 by christopher

One of the most recurring complaints about cable television is the bundles - people resent having to pay for channels that they do not watch. Especially when those cable prices go up consistently. The cable companies tend to absorb most of the blame and anger for this model, but they aren't entirely responsible.

To explain how the cable industry works, Public Knowledge Senior Counsel John Bergmayer joins us for Episode 241 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. We talk about overlapping monopolies, market power, and how the cable companies themselves are somewhat imprisoned by content owners. 

As fits with our focus, we also talk specifically about how smaller firms (which includes all municipal networks) are particularly harmed by the status quo and even more harmed by the ongoing consolidation of the largest cable companies becuase they then have far greater negotiating power. 

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Posted February 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Folks in Ammon, Idaho, are now getting choice, speed, and affordability from their new municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Home owners are making the switch and waving "bye-bye" to the burdens of a broken market for the benefits of publicly owned infrastructure.

High Demand

Out of 369 homes in the first district, 239 have signed up to be connected to the open access network; 22 installations are complete. Installations are on hold until winter is over, but the city’s Technology Director Bruce Patterson expects to add more as people experience their neighbors’ fiber service. 

In order to connect to the network, homeowners pay for the cost of the installation themselves either with a $3,000 direct payment when the project is completed or through a special property assessment over a 20-year period. Property owners who don’t want to be connected aren’t obligated to pay. Residents or businesses connected to the network then choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP) from those offering services over the network infrastructure. The network’s technology makes switching providers a simple task that can be done online. 

ISP Like It, Too

Ammon makes it easy and inexpensive for new providers to offer services on their fiber as a way to encourage competition. Ammon told the Post Register:

“We tried to make sure the barriers to entry were as low as possible to encourage competition,” Patterson said. “There’s the potential for market disruption. If somebody else can get to you cheaper and present a better economic number, they have the potential to disrupt the marketplace, which is better for all of us.”

seal-idaho-small.jpg

With more providers to choose from, rates are more competitive and providers go the extra mile to satisfy their subscribers. Brigham Griffin is marketing director for Direct Communications, one of the ISPs... Read more

Posted January 24, 2017 by christopher

When we first learned of the Lookout Lane fiber-optic project in the Kitsap Public Utility District in Washington, we knew we wanted to learn more. Kitsap PUD General Manager Bob Hunter and Telecommunications Superintendent Paul Avis join us for episode 237 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

KPUD has historically focused on water and wastewater services but they increasingly hear from residents and businesses that Internet access is a major priority. We talk about their approach and how neighborhoods are able to petition KPUD to build fiber to them. The first area to use this option had very poor Internet access from the incumbent telephone provider.

The discussion covers a lot of interesting ground, from how it is financed to where the demand is heaviest, and why public utility districts should have the option of using a retail model in some areas rather than continuing to be limited solely to wholesale-only by state law. 

For related information, consider our coverage of the Northwest Open Access Network.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Posted January 7, 2017 by lgonzalez

On December 6th, Deputy Assistant Jon Sallet of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division spoke at the Capitol Forum Broadband Competition Conference in Washington, DC. Sallet spent several years at the FCC and in July 2016 announced that he would begin working for the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Sallet’s remarks emphasized the importance of competition for the health of the Internet ecosystem. He pointed out that, in order for residents, businesses, and other entities to get the most out of the possibilities of Internet access, policy, regulation, and enforcement must encourage the mosaic that comes with competition. The DOJ will have decide how it wishes to apply these considerations as it faces upcoming decisions about potential mergers, such as the proposed CenturyLink and Level 3 merger or the AT&T and Time Warner merger.

When shaping our approach, he argues, we must consider four powerful elements that require a delicate balance:

  • First, competition is the best driver of innovation and consumer benefits in the Internet ecosystem; that ecosystem in which broadband connectivity is a critical component. Thus it is important to understand the state of competition, especially in those high speed connections that provide today the platform for so many complementary services provided by what we now call “the edge.”
  • Second, both antitrust law and public policy must rest upon a sound understanding of the incentives and abilities of broadband providers to artificially shape competition not only in the markets for residential Internet access but also in complementary markets across the Internet ecosystem.  Here it is valuable to reflect upon the decades-long conclusion that telecommunications networks hold gatekeeper power that can be used to threaten competition.
  • Third, government should protect competition from artificial constraint that injures consumers and, especially in dynamic markets, threatens the future of innovation. The shared, overlapping jurisdiction of the FCC and the division focuses on the review of telecommunications mergers.  Such reviews should be carried out always with a clear- eyed vision of the impact of market conditions on consumers today and innovation tomorrow.
  • Finally, the FCC has determined that an Open Internet advances economic and social goals so important that they... Read more
Posted December 20, 2016 by christopher

This week, we return to Bozeman's unique model in Montana to get an update now that the network is up and running. President of Bozeman Fiber Anthony Cochenour and city of Bozeman Economic Development Director Brit Fontenot join us again to discuss their unique approach. We last spoke with them on episode 142.

We discuss how they are doing two months after launching the network. With five ISPs already using it to deliver services a several more in the process of signing up, they are on target for where they hoped to be. 

We talk about how their nonprofit approach is governed and how expected challenges turned out to be not as challenging as expected - financing in particular. Many local banks stepped up to particpatein the project, something Bozeman Fiber credits with having strong relationships within the community.

All of our coverage on Bozeman is available here.

Read the transcript from this episode here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Posted December 20, 2016 by lgonzalez

San Francisco multi-occupancy building tenants will no longer be stuck with the Internet Service Provider most friendly with the landlord. On December 13th, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance to ensure that competing ISPs have reasonable access to buildings to offer competing services and give tenants a choice.

Ensuring Choice In Apartments, Condos, Businesses

Earlier this month, Mark Farrell from the city’s Board of Supervisors spoke with Christopher about his proposed legislation during episode #231 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. He described how city leaders began digging into ways to improve local connectivity and uncovered a problem that was much larger than they had anticipated. While federal law prohibits property owners from forcing tenants to sign up with one particular provider, many have effectively done so by preventing competing providers from installing wiring or antennas in or on their buildings. In exchange for limiting access to the competition, building owners and landlords take kickbacks from the ISP willing to make the best offer.

The new ordinance makes such agreements between building owners or landlords and ISPs fruitless because they can no longer block competing providers from their buildings. Webpass, a fixed wireless provider focusing on serving multi-dwelling unit (MDU) tenants, has been trying to get a foothold in the city but the ordinance has proven to be a difficult barrier. A local providers, Monkeybrains, raised the capital through crowdfunding to begin a fixed wireless service, but without the ordinance their reach is limited.

New Choices For Tens Of Thousands

In an urban setting like San Francisco, eliminating the ability for landlords and ISPs to lock tenants into a take-it-or-leave-it scenario will create choice for a huge swath of people:

... Read more
Posted December 9, 2016 by htrostle

This is the transcript for episode 231 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Mark Farrell of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors explains a proposed ordinance to improve Internet access for residents of apartment buildings. Listen to this episode here.

Mark Farrell: The MDU access policy is truly part of a broader scope here in San Francisco of work around Internet connectivity and Internet access.

Lisa Gonzalez: Welcome to episode 231 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute For Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Residents of apartment building or other types of multi-dwelling units don't always have their choice of Internet service provider, even if they're two or three companies competing in their neighborhood. Owners of the buildings they live in have been known to restrict access to the buildings to one provider. As a result, tenants who want Internet access have no practical choice at all. In episode 231, Mark Farrell joins Christopher. Mark is from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and has introduced legislation that would create an ordinance to allow competing ISPs access to multi-dwelling units. Mark explains the ordinance and why the city needs to implement it. He also describes how this policy is only one part of the city's greater effort to improve connectivity for all its residents. Now here's Chris talking with Mark Farrell, supervisor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors about a new proposal to remove restrictions of subscriber choice for people who live in multi-dwelling units.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today I'm speaking with Supervisor Mark Farrell of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Welcome to the show.

Mark Farrell: Thanks for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: I think I'd like to jump right in and just ask, you're proposing a law that deals with condo and apartment buildings. What would your law fix?

Mark Farrell: Right now in San Francisco we have a huge number of multi-dwelling unit buildings, or MDUs as they are called, where tenants have not been able to get access to the Internet service providers... Read more

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