CenturyLink takeover of Level 3 challenged in California

11 May 2017 by Steve Blum
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The proposed purchase of Level 3 by CenturyLink faces two formal protests in California. One comes from a coalition of consumer advocacy groups – TURN, the Greenlining Institute and the California Public Utilities Commission’s office of ratepayer advocates – and the other from the California Emerging Technology Fund. Both generally focus on the impact that rolling together two of California’s four major fiber companies would have on broadband availability, on both a wholesale and retail basis.… More

CPUC will decide if CenturyLink can buy Level 3

1 May 2017 by Steve Blum
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CenturyLink and Level 3 have finally admitted that they need to do more than just throw a note through the window in order to get the California Public Utilities Commission’s approval of their pending transaction. The deal was done last October, but the two companies waited five months to formally apply for permission to transfer Level 3’s California telephone certifications to CenturyLink.

During that time, they tried to convince CPUC staff that it was a purely administrative matter that could be handled with a perfunctory paper shuffle.… More

Cable companies will double broadband prices because they can

19 April 2017 by Steve Blum
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Source: New Street Research, via *FierceCable*

In a competitive market, pricing is dynamic – you can’t reliably plan more than one or two moves ahead. But in a de facto monopoly – either a single seller or a duopoly with a weak second banana – you can lay out a long term roadmap and follow it relentlessly.
That’s what one noted financial analyst thinks the two big U.S. cable companies are doing. According to a story in FierceCable, Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst at New Street Research, thinks cable broadband prices will double in the coming years…

“Comcast and Charter have given up on usage-based pricing for now; however, we expect them to continue annual price increases,” Chaplin said.


Dark fiber will disappear if CenturyLink buys Level 3

2 April 2017 by Steve Blum
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CenturyLink’s proposed acquisition of Level 3 continues to rumble through the review process at the Federal Communications Commission. Very little organised opposition has surfaced. Some market-based opposition has come from Incompas, a lobbying group that represents competitive carriers and similar network and system operators. They’re challenging the merger because, among things, it would roll the major independent fiber company in the U.S. – Level 3 – into an incumbent telco – CenturyLink – with a traditional monopoly mindset…

As it stands, the applicants have not provided evidence—or even a statement—of an intent to build vigorously outside CenturyLink’s [incumbent local exchange carrier] region.


CenturyLink gets extortionate pricing bonus from Level 3 deal

15 March 2017 by Steve Blum
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Level 3 is engaging in “extortionate pricing” for the middle mile fiber connections it leases to broadband companies, and the problem will only get worse if CenturyLink is allowed to buy it. That’s the claim made by Windstream, a relatively small incumbent telephone company, based in Arkansas, that also offers data networking and other telecommunications services to businesses outside of its primary coverage area.

Windstream filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission, as it decides whether CenturyLink’s proposed purchase of Level 3 will go forward.… More

CenturyLink tries to hide California market squeeze under pile of paperwork

30 December 2016 by Steve Blum
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CenturyLink is asking the Federal Communications Commission for formal permission to buy Level 3, and it’s trying to portray the deal as a couple of complementary, non-overlapping companies coming together to fight the bigger, badder companies that make the telecoms market so uncompetitive.

Not so. At least where California is concerned.

The filing would have you believe that CenturyLink just…

Provides communications services including voice, wholesale local network access, high-speed Internet access, data transmission, security monitoring, and information, entertainment, and transport services through its copper and fiber networks in the United States.


Comcast uses monopoly muscle to claw back profits from cord cutters

9 December 2016 by Steve Blum
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Odd. He always seems to win.

Comcast’s operating profit drops by $5.50 every time a customer cancels bundled television service and goes with Internet service alone. That’s according to a story by Daniel Frankel in Fierce Wireless about some back of the envelope modelling done by Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett. His conclusion is that bundling prevents cord cutting, and I think he’s right. But another way of looking at it is that Comcast – and its mega-cable brethren – are using their monopoly control of high speed Internet service to extract significant rents – profits beyond what a competitive market would allow – from consumers.… More

CPUC votes to challenge incumbents' pole, conduit blockades

2 December 2016 by Steve Blum
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Utility poles and underground conduit could shift from the tight control of a handful of monopoly electric and telecoms companies to a more broadly managed public resource in California. Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously decided to require incumbent telecoms companies to disclose where their middle fiber networks go and how to connect to them, and to begin the process of writing rules to make it easier for competitors to gain access to poles, conduit and other infrastructure that’s installed in the public right of way.… More

CPUC focuses on California's monopoly broadband market

30 November 2016 by Steve Blum
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Only one, where it counts.

A sharper take on California’s uncompetitive market for telecoms services goes before the California Public Utilities Commission tomorrow. A revised draft of a decision authored by CPUC administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer was posted yesterday. It addresses the tall stack of comments on the first draft filed by telecoms companies and advocacy groups alike.

The major change is a promise to address tactics that monopoly telephone and cable companies use to block competitors, particularly regarding “access to poles, conduit, and rights of way”.… More

Broadband monopoly battles may shift to states when FCC retreats

25 November 2016 by Steve Blum
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A key telecoms advisor to Donald Trump seems to be floating the idea of pushing more broadband regulatory responsibility down to states. Mark Jamison, currently a lecturer at the University of Florida and formerly a staff lobbyist for Sprint, is one half of the Trump transition landing team assigned to the Federal Communications Commission. In a blog post published before the election, he argues that there’s no longer a need for the FCC, as it currently exists…

Telecommunications network providers and ISPs are rarely, if ever, monopolies.