The End of Affordable DSL?

In the past few months we've pointed you to several stories detailing FCC moves to deregulate broadband Internet. Well, it would seem that the courts beat them to the punch by ruling against them and in favor of the Baby Bells, effectively bringing an end to competitive access to the phone lines in regards to DSL service.

The original FCC guidelines were set out in 1999. They forced Baby Bells like Verizon, who control the telecommunications infrastructure, to share with competitive companies like CTC Communications. This enabled companies like DirectTV to offer DSL at competitive prices and with additional services than what you could get directly from Verizon.

The Baby Bells, the United States Telecom Association (USTA) (who represents the Baby Bells), and the current FCC regime argue that a deregulation will promote competition between DSL and cable by unencumbering the Baby Bells from FCC regulations. Oddly enough, this article makes it sound less like the the USTA proved their case and more like the FTC failed to show that competition in the DSL market was a good thing.

If this all seems convoluted, that's because it is. FCC officials are political appointees. So, with a new administration comes new policies and new regulations (or deregulation, as the case may be). So, as you can imagine, the officials of one administration are not likely to defend the policies of the previous administration.

Opponents of deregulation argue that it is not likely to increase competition between DSL and cable and will most certainly eliminate competition in the DSL market. This latter point is almost assuredly true. After all, why would Verizon allow companies like DirectTV to compete with them using their own equipment, driving down DSL prices?

The current FCC is banking that broadband customers will be better served by competition between 2 or 3 national companies than dozens of local, regional and national companies. As someone who lives in a town without practical broadband options, I can only hope they're right.

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