All The Fastest U.S. ISPs Are, Once Again, Small, Independent Competitors Or Local Governments

from the pass-go,-collect-$200 dept

We’ve spent years laying out mountains of documented evidence on how the U.S. broadband is a heavily monopolized mess largely protected and pampered by captured lawmakers and regulators. The impact of this lack of meaningful competition is everywhere, from historically terrible customer satisfaction rates, to high prices, slow speeds, and spotty coverage.

83 percent of US households live under a broadband monopoly. The U.S. is painfully mediocre in nearly every global broadband metric that matters. And when competitors do still somehow manage to survive in this environment, their positive impact is very clear.

Case in point: PC Magazine once again measured all the fastest broadband providers in America and found that smaller ISPs, or community built broadband networks, consistently provided the fastest speeds:

As smaller competitors, these efforts are all far more incentivized to, you know, try. Or in the case of efforts like Fort Collins Connexion or Longmont Nextlight, both community broadband builds in Colorado, they’re actually part of the local communities they serve, and therefore, more directly responsible to those communities and their voters.

Independent California ISP Sonic, one of the very few larger independent ISPs to survive monopoly power and the lobbyist-induced competitive carnage of the early 00s, has the fastest speeds in the country thanks to its 10 Gbps offerings. All of these smaller operations are about improving the communities they operate in, instead of the traditional monopoly model of extraction and turf protection.

Campaign cash slathered lawmakers and policymakers have literally spent decades embracing one core central policy: throwing countless billions in subsidies, tax breaks, and regulatory favors at industry giants like AT&T in exchange for networks they half deploy or don’t deploy at all. AT&T, in turn, has historically cut jobs, skimped on investments, and ripped off the federal government.

Worse, state and federal legislatures have allowed giants like AT&T to repeatedly write and craft legislation aimed at curtailing competition, whether it comes from a small local government frustrated with market failure, or smaller broadband providers trying to make inroads in the market. At the same time, they’ve lobotomized most federal oversight of market competition and consumer welfare.

Even in this environment, scattered competition continues to emerge and demonstrate its value.

Terrible telecommuting and home education experiences levied historic pressure on lawmakers to try to do somewhat better, resulting in equally historic financial investment in new deployments. And California is exploring some very novel efforts such as the creation of a massive new open access middle mile network aimed at boosting competition and driving down costs without rate regulation.

As somebody who has tracked U.S. federal telecom policy for 20+ years, I can say unequivocally that federal telecom policy has failed due to corruption. The evidence is everywhere; most recently and painfully evident by the telecom lobby’s successful bid to block the nomination of FCC Commissioner Gigi Sohn based on a bunch of half-assed, manufactured attacks.

The vast majority of the most interesting efforts in telecom right now are coming at the hands of a bipartisan collection of states, local towns, small competitors, cooperatives, and utilities — all extremely pissed off and finally doing something about it.

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Companies: sonic

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Comments on “All The Fastest U.S. ISPs Are, Once Again, Small, Independent Competitors Or Local Governments”

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Anonymous Coward says:

maybe because they care about their customers and are not only prepared to give but are very keen to give a really good service, from Cust. Serv, Installers, engineers and equipment? the ‘main players’ dont give a flying fuck about any customer or what the service and back-up is like (a heap of shit!) and conning the people, via corrupt members of congress etc, in getting as much in funding as possible to swell the coffers, but not use in the ways stated when the got the funding and pay the upper management mega bucks!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Toom1275 (profile) says:

“The cost of increasing [broadband] capacity has declined much faster than the increase in data traffic.”

A few years ago Sonic (formerly spent about 20 percent of its revenue on basic infrastructure. Since then, the cost of routers, switching equipment and other related gear declined so much that the company’s infrastructure costs are now only a bit more than 1.5 percent of its revenue.

For this reason, Sonic has no plans to impose data caps

  • Sonic CEO Dane Jasper
Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Time for a solution

Part of how this falls apart in getting things done is it’s less that honest even if accurate.

Over 90% of the US population lives in or within 20 miles of a major city. Coverage over the other 90%+ of the country, is scattered.

The problem is on multiple fronts.
The cable companies refuse to spend money to upgrade transmission. 10 people on a Tb line is very different than 10,000. Meaning, yes, there are reasons for the reduced speed. Easily solved by upgraded infrastructure.

Another is lack of any infrastructure across most of the country.

And finally, administration after administration refusing to do anything about it.

Internet for all would work the same way as a proper healthcare for all system. Or education for all system.
The government build the infrastructure.

The federal government must creat, fund, and build a system to every door in the country. Directly control the build. And offer the service free of charge.

How long do you think it would take AT$T and Comcast to roll out $50 5Gb dedicated line internet when competing with free 1Gb.
How long before we get Tb fibre to compete with 1Gb free.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Pay you for a beating, pay them for a treat. Choices choices...'

With numbers like that it’s hardly a surprise that the major ISPs fight tooth and nail against community broadband and other smaller competitors, they know that if people actually had a choice they’d see a swift flood of customers out the door in a matter of days thanks to the heretical idea of competition and a free market they didn’t control.

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