ACA Connects to FTC: Broadband Market is Working, but Issues Remain

Said generally benefits consumers, but regs, consolidation are still threats
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ACA Connects gave the Federal Trade Commission an earful in comments on the FTC's hearings on competition and consumer protection.

ACA Connects said that, generally speaking, the broadband marketplace is working to consumers' benefit as is with 300 million people having access to 100 Mbps broadband service, most from multiple providers, thanks in no small part to the smaller operators investing large amounts of capital.

As to the state of the broadband marketplace, the association pointed out that no ISP has an exclusive franchise for broadband service and, with few exceptions, ISPs have invested with no guarantee of return, with few barriers to entry and multiple providers in most markets.

That said, ACA also pointed to some areas of concern with that marketplace, specifically larger, consolidated, players.

"The FTC should be concerned about the potential for anticompetitive conduct when an ISP vertically integrates with an over-the-top content provider, especially one that owns or controls a service, application, or content that can be deemed effectively essential for an ISP’s subscribers to access," it told the FTC. "In such instances, the vertically integrated ISP/edge provider has an incentive to increase the price for a competing ISP or its subscribers to access the content – or even withhold the content entirely."

Then there are the "government regulations that either skew the marketplace or act as barriers to competition and innovation." Those include, ACA Connects said, "additional fees where ISPs do not make additional use of, or otherwise additionally burden, the [public] rights-of-way; or fees that are market-based."

"[E]ven though broadband markets are working, the FTC and other government agencies may need to intervene to address market challenges faced by smaller ISPs and consumers in rural areas," says ACA Connects president Matt Polka.

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