People don't need fast broadband, senator tells FCC

6 March 2015 by Steve Blum
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I wonder if he knows what he’s up against?

While browsing through the FCC’s recently released documents today, I came upon a gem of an exchange between chairman Tom Wheeler and senator Orrin Hatch (R – Utah), regarding the proposed mega-merge and market swap involving Comcast, Time-Warner and Charter. Last month, Hatch wrote a letter to Wheeler and the federal justice department’s top anti-trust attorney, explaining why it would be okay if “a post-merger Comcast would control a substantial proportion of the national fixed Internet broadband market, perhaps as high as 65 percent”.

Satellite and wireless can do the trick, Hatch said…

In claiming that Comcast will have a near–65 percent post-merger market share, merger opponents exclude these other, non-fixed offerings, and also limit the universe to services with download speeds far in excess of what than the typical customer actually uses. This narrow view of the market overlooks current market conditions and fails to account for the many options today’s Internet users have for accessing broadband. In particular, the explosive growth of wireless broadband threatens to upend the entire broadband industry and render traditional fixed broadband far less important.

And anyway, the real problem as Hatch sees it is that the FCC raised the minimum broadband speed to 25 Mbps down/ 3 Mbps up

I agree with the two dissenting Commissioners that this move was both unnecessary and unwise and that the threshold the majority selected was unreasonably excessive because it far exceeds the connection speeds the typical customer needs or uses.

I doubt Hatch has the slightest idea what it costs to buy hundreds of gigabyte a month from a fixed or mobile wireless ISP, let alone a satellite operator. The cost difference between wireless, of any kind, and wireline service is huge on a per gigabyte basis. And it’s hard to imagine that there are too many people in the 80-year old senator’s home trying to watch different Netflix streams all at once, so 6 Mbps probably seems like a lot to him.

Wheeler’s response was essentially thanks for the input. No word on whether the justice department was more impressed.