U.S. Cable Broadband Monopolies Close In On 70% Broadband Market Share

from the Do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

The U.S. telecom industry's monopolization problem shows no sign of slowing down.

According to the latest data from Leichtman Research, the cable industry is nearing a 70% market share over fixed line broadband. That's thanks to many reasons, not least of which being that most U.S. phone companies have effectively given up on seriously upgrading their aging DSL lines, driving a greater portion of Americans to the only companies actually offering modern broadband speeds: Charter (Spectrum) and Comcast. Phone companies collectively lost another 150,000 subscribers last quarter, while cable providers added about 1,400,000 users in just three months.

For the cable industry, this is all a wonderful thing. Less competition from phone companies, combined with a Trump FCC that couldn't care less about the sector's competition problems, means they can get away with charging higher rates than ever for a service that comes (not coincidentally) with some of the worst customer service ratings of any industry in America (seriously stop and think about that for a moment).

With COVID-19 making it clear that broadband is an essential utility, users are flocking to cable connections if they want to remain tethered to their jobs, education, and friends. Charter (Spectrum), as a result, saw 850,000 new customers in one quarter alone, a quarterly record for any broadband provider, at any point in U.S. history:

"With the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic, there were more quarterly net broadband additions in 2Q 2020 than in any quarter in eight years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “In the first half of 2020, there were over 2.4 million net broadband additions. This is the most net adds in the first half of any year since 2008."

That's great news for cable giants, but not so great for consumers, smaller competitors, or the health of the internet.

Less competition overall means not only higher flat-rate prices, but more annoying fees, usage caps, and overage surcharges. It also means less incentive than ever to behave on subjects like net neutrality or privacy, improve customer service, or expand service into lower ROI areas (despite billions in tax breaks, subsidies, and regulatory favors). What exactly exists to curtail these companies' worst impulses or motivate them to do better? They face no competition, and U.S. regulators and lawmakers are potentially the most captured they've been at any point in the last 50 years.

There's a small glimmer of hope that low-orbit satellite ventures (from the likes of Space X and Amazon) and fifth-generation wireless (5G) could help shake things up, but the former lacks the capacity to seriously disrupt denser markets, and the latter still is far from being a direct competitor to fixed-line broadband due to high prices and nickel-and-dime connection restrictions. Meanwhile one of the more disruptive aspects of U.S. telecom, community-owned or public/private partnerships, have been under steady assault by the Trump FCC.

U.S. monopolization is not a bug, it's a feature. There is no panacea here, and nothing changes without both a dramatic shake up in American leadership, and major reform to rein in AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon's political influence over both state and federal lawmakers and regulators.

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Filed Under: broadband, cable, competition, market share, monopolies
Companies: charter, charter spectrum, comcast


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2020 @ 9:08am

    The internet is a utility and should be devoid of gouging. Plenty of people will argue the fact but their arguments are lame empty excuses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 28 Aug 2020 @ 11:59am

    Nothing's ever going to be done about this problem. The US is a capitalist dictatorship, plain and simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 28 Aug 2020 @ 11:59am

    There is/are problems with this.

    The old phone system ahd Gov. backing and support and REQUIREMENTS..
    It was designed around the idea that IT NEVER GOES DOWN. That the interconnections from 1 coast to the other is ON all the time. That it NOT be centralized...That each section is somewhat independent Over the WHOLE, and if 1 section breaks, the rest does not suffer.
    Then there are the Privacy laws OVER the phone system that cable does NOT have. MOST of this can be considered a PARTY line, if you know how that works. Everyone connected on 1 line, and IF' you know how, you can listen to ALL of it.
    The old system had a few problems that Could be fixed or patched, and was developing upto the 1990's. But after the cellphones came it STOPPED.
    Backing and supporting the phone system LET them advance. Change and adapt. Make things better. MORE options to charge you for, that you never knew were there..

    NOW we have the Cable system. and how many interconnects between systems..? 1 maybe 2.
    If the Main company goes Blank, the WHOLE goes down. And that can be 2-3 states away. Who do you call with problems WHEN the system you are on, Fails?
    Ever get that msg. about going to the internet to figure your problem?? When you CANT connect to the internet?? That only works if the internet CANT go down, and CANT be turned off. With the Phone system I could find SOMEONE in town with a phone or Even goto the police station to check things out.
    ALL the old contracts with the Phone system are made NULL/VOID. as they no longer support it.

    REALLY want to fix the WHOLE system?? threaten to make it a PUBLIC UTILITY. the Current owners NEVER installed anything. they Bought the systems, and are only bill collectors. They have little responsibility, they bought it for what it WAS, not what they could make it into. MOSt really dont know the business anymore. They stopped caring about this work and this country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Aug 2020 @ 11:04pm

    If you are bored, start talking to Trumpers about how can we be great again when we have some of the worst internet on the planet at the highest prices.
    Why should have they to pay more to hear Trumps tweets??

    Don't stare at me like that, you know this would work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    vian12 (profile), 30 Aug 2020 @ 11:57pm

    survey art

    Thank you for visiting here:
    https://www.surveyarts.com/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dtv757, 31 Aug 2020 @ 6:00am

    how do we get rid of cable monopoly

    how do we get FTTH expanded and get rid of cable monopoly??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Liz, 1 Sep 2020 @ 12:39am

      Re: how do we get rid of cable monopoly

      u can't get away because "Trump FCC that couldn't care less about the sector's competition problems, means they can get away with charging higher rates than ever for a service that comes (not coincidentally) with some of the worst customer service ratings of any industry in America (seriously stop and think about that for a moment)." Pai FCC policies like killing net neutrality:

      “The FCC's 2019 Broadband Deployment Report is hopelessly flawed and cannot be the basis for future policymaking,” Sohn said. “Nor does it validate Chairman Pai’s unsubstantiated claims that his policies have helped to close the digital divide."

      You'll also note that this report, much like the FCC's $250 million broadband map, fails utterly to even mention the high cost of broadband in the United States. While the FCC obtains pricing data from ISPs, it has long shirked away from sharing this data with the public, lest somebody get a better sense of the hugely negative impact limited competition has on the US market.

      Trump's FCC administration spent alot of tax payer's money to infrastructure internet connectivity leaving companies to monopolize higher prices.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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