| WASHINGTON, Sept 4
WASHINGTON, Sept 4 The U.S. market for broadband
Internet connections is not competitive enough because many
providers do not offer the speedy connections that consumers
increasingly demand, the top U.S. communications regulator said
Though most U.S. consumers have multiple options when it
comes to picking a company to wire their homes for basic
Internet, the choice is markedly limited if a consumer is
looking for truly high-speed Internet, according to Federal
Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.
"There is an inverse relationship between competition and
the kind of broadband performance that consumers are
increasingly demanding. This is not tolerable," Wheeler said in
a speech at tech startup incubator 1776 in Washington.
"My goal is not to criticize but to recognize that
meaningful competition for high-speed wired broadband is lacking
and Americans need more competitive choices for faster and
better Internet connections."
Wheeler cited data showing that 75 percent of Americans can
choose between two or three Internet service providers (ISPs) to
deliver download speeds of 4 megabits per second (Mbps). But for
speeds of 25 Mbps, 55 percent of U.S. households have only one
option and almost 20 percent have none.
In a study released in June, the FCC found that DSL
services, though presented as competitors by other ISPs,
delivered far slower speeds than they promised and generally
lagged fiber and cable providers.
"Traditional DSL is just not keeping up," Wheeler said on
Thursday, adding also: "Today it seems clear that mobile
broadband is just not a full substitute for fixed broadband."
Another side of the FCC's data is that a notable portion of
the U.S. population, particularly in rural areas, entirely lacks
access to high-speed Internet, which is currently defined as 4
Mbps download speed and which Wheeler called inadequate.
"That's yesterday's broadband," Wheeler said. "Even 10
megabits doesn't fully capture the increasing demand for better
For comparison, Netflix recommends a 5 Mbps Internet speed
to stream video in high definition. Consumers are increasingly
using the Internet to stream music and videos, make calls or use
other services that continue to demand faster speeds.
The FCC is studying whether it should require that download
speeds of 10 Mbps or higher for Internet service to qualify as
broadband, or high-speed.
Wheeler's speech, which FCC officials say is the first of a
series, offered important insight into his thinking about
broadband competition as his agency tackles numerous issues
likely to be colored by this view.
Among the hottest subjects on the FCC's agenda is a review
of a proposed merger between top ISPs, Comcast Corp
and Time Warner Cable Inc, which however do not directly
compete against each other as their coverage areas do not
Another issue recently under spotlight is the FCC's work to
set new "net neutrality" rules that address whether ISPs should
be able to charge content companies in some circumstances to
ensure their websites or applications load smoothly and quickly.
To read Wheeler's speech, see bit.ly/1o1tQ0F
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by David Gregorio)