The Agenda

Has Competition Between Cable and Telephone Incumbents Led to Higher Broadband Speeds?

Tim Lee observes that the pace of broadband progress has stalled:

The nation’s leading broadband providers appear to have calculated that pouring money into faster (wired) Internet access isn’t a good investment, and the major telephone incumbents—Verizon and AT&T—have effectively ceded the speed crown to cable incumbents like Comcast and focused on upgrading their wireless networks. Little surprise, then, that Comcast hasn’t raised its its 250 GB bandwidth cap in almost 4 years.

Contra Larry Downes, Tim thus sees Comcast’s decision to exempt its Internet television service delivered via the Xbox 360 from its broadband usage cap as potentially anti-competitive:

So I think open Internet activists are right to be concerned about the anti-competitive potential of Comcast exempting its own services from its bandwidth cap. But the longer the cap remains stuck at 250 GB, the less it looks like a congestion-management technique and the more it looks like an effort to starve online video services of the bandwidth they need to compete directly with Comcast’s own video services.

Without some technological breakthrough that can enable competitors to leapfrog over the cable and telephone incumbents, the future of broadband service looks somewhat grim. One wonders if Steve Perlman’s DIDO will ride to the rescue.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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