Michael Powell A Bit Quick To Claim Google Broadband Is Viable Competition

from the slow-down-there,-partner dept

Former FCC chair Michael Powell really, really, really wants to believe that there’s viable competition in the broadband market, but he seems to have a history of using tiny experiments (that may go nowhere) as if they prove that there’s real competition. You may recall that when he was in charge of the FCC he declared broadband-over-powerlines “the great broadband hope” despite years and years of failed trials. Following his pronouncements on how BPL would present a viable “third” entrant into the competitive space, the prospects for BPL have continued to dwindle.

Now he’s claiming that Google’s latest decision to offer high speed broadband in very limited trials, shows that the market is generating competition just fine without unnecessary interference from the government via any sort of broadband stimulus plan.

Of course, there are a few problems with this. First, Google has only announced stuff, it hasn’t done anything yet, and even if it does, it appears the trials will be quite limited. But the bigger issue is this myth that the current market is this free and open market unencumbered by bad gov’t regulation. The history of the broadband market is the history of government’s subsidizing and favoring large incumbent telcos. The idea that suddenly everyone wants to “protect the free market” for internet access, when the market has never been a free market is pretty silly. What they mean is actually to protect the market for incumbents. Unless, of course, the incumbents are willing to pay back all the subsidies and preferential treatment they’ve received from the government over the years?

On the whole, I do agree with Powell’s position that we should be careful how we implement any national broadband plan, and that the focus should be on more competition — but I wouldn’t take Google’s announcement alone to be any sort of “evidence” of a free market in internet access.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Michael Powell A Bit Quick To Claim Google Broadband Is Viable Competition”

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Mike C. (profile) says:

Additional detail on the Google "offer"

The Google offer is even more limited than people know. One of the requirements is that the city where it is to be installed must own the poles and wires where the equipment is to be installed. I got this from my own town’s mayor when I wrote to him suggesting he look into it.

Yeah… sure… the market is doing just FINE in generating competition… NOT!

Richard Corsale (profile) says:

not to mention


“The report confirms that at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, too many Americans still rely on slow, narrowband Internet access or do not use the Internet at all,” said NTIA chief Lawrence Strickling in the report’s foreward. “Although life without high speed Internet service seems unimaginable for many Americans, for too many others, broadband is still unattainable.”

Anonymous Coward says:

“Now he’s claiming that Google’s latest decision to offer high speed broadband in very limited trials, shows that the market is generating competition just fine without unnecessary interference from the government via any sort of broadband stimulus plan. “

We don’t need interference from the government to create competition, what we need is for the government to stop interfering to limit competition, which is exactly what the government does. We need the government to stop granting cableco/telco/public airwave monopolies to the highest briber … I mean, bidder.

Ben Robinson (profile) says:

I think it is important to get away from the idea that all government intervention/regulation of a market inhibits/distorts a free market. In a market where you have former monopoly incumbents the market is already distorted and government regulation can be used to effectively restore a more free market. It can be a difficult ballance treading the fine line between under and over regulation but if you look at the competition in the broadband and telecoms markets in the UK you can see what can be achieved. Where I live in the UK I can chose between 30+ braodband and fixed line telephone providers and probably many many more than that for just fixed line telephone. The market is extremely competitive with providers ranging from huge incumbents like BT and Vrigin media to small regional and niche providers all competing on different levels from price, to service, to speed and anything else they can think of to offer over and above the competition.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Gov't + Telecom = Tons of CASH

Why dance around the obvious? Telecom is a cash cow for State and Local governments and will continue to get preferential treatment from the Federal level as long as it remains a cash cow.

The government won’t even see that the RBOCs and MSOs are basically the same types of providers now, but the laws regarding their regulation are still separate. It’s the same thing we see all the time here, the technologies moved past the laws, and old business models are struggling to survive.

I personally love the claim by both Cable and the Telecoms that there is a bandwidth shortage so they have to change to metered plans to conserve. Their networks are so stressed for bandwidth and yet the Telecoms are still trying to get a foothold in video with IPTV. Doesn’t video require A LOT more bandwidth? Could it be that it’s a lot more palatable to tell consumers there’s a bandwidth shortage rather than just say we need bigger profits to cover our taxes?

Ronald Noonan (profile) says:


Google really wants “free” access to all markets. However, they want the dictionary definition of “free” to apply to them and not the “free” definition they are now using to describe their “free” services Example: “Free” as applied to the Gooogle Adwords campaign means you first fill out all your financial information to get your “free” $100 credit to promote your business, THEN you must pay an initial fee of $5 before you can get started on their “Free” adwords campaign. Whoever started that campaign will cause more damage to google than can be imagined. Just like most “scams” on the internet, they never tell you about fees in the front. You are only asked right at the end,just before you are authorized to participate in the “free” offer. The initial fee is always worth more than the value offered and you wasted your time for nothing. It’s a matter of integrity! I won’t deal with a company that deals like that and the rest of the internet users are intelligent enough to recognize the fraud as well. Maybe Google is too big to fail! I noticed the (“I am much better than you”)demeanor when they (google) interviewed President Obama. Ronald Noonan-and I stand firmly on this issue.

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