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California’s Legislature Is Contemplating Abandoning Oversight Over Broadband Monopolies Just Like the FCC

DEEPLINKS BLOG
March 29, 2019

California’s Legislature Is Contemplating Abandoning Oversight Over Broadband Monopolies Just Like the FCC

At a time when we are fighting to keep the future of broadband access from reverting back towards a monopoly, it seems implausible that a legislator would suggest their state should follow the Federal Communications Commission’s lead to abandon oversight over a highly concentrated, uncompetitive market. But Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez wants to take that exact approach. 

The recently introduced A.B. 1366 mirrors the FCC’s abandonment of consumers with one exception—California fought to establish its own net neutrality rules under S.B. 822 passed last year. Apart from that, A.B. 1366 removes any semblance of the state promoting competition for broadband access through its state regulator, the California Public Utility Commission (the state version of an FCC). Instead, it appears to just hope that our cable monopolies will be benevolent.

 We Need to Promote Competition and Access To Keep Up With the Rest of the World

That’s the exact opposite of what our elected leaders in California, and the rest of the country, need to propose. We need a plan to boost competition for high-speed broadband, as the current “no plan” approach by the FCC is setting us up for failure. The legislature, along with the governor and the CPUC, should be working hard to understand why most people are stuck with either a cable monopoly—or no access at all—and working to resolve those barriers. A.B. 1366 would instead wash the state’s hands of trying to promote competition under the premise that monopolists have the best interest of consumers in mind.

Abandoning oversight and letting this market revert to monopolies removes any incentive for those companies to invest in improvements and new deployments. In doing so, this bill essentially promotes the theory that we do not need a plan to ensure universally available, affordable, and high-speed networks. That kind of thinking sets us back. No other country ahead of the United States on broadband access has adopted that theory. Instead, their governments aggressively supported competition by addressing monopoly choke points and other barriers to entry.

Both the EU and China are expected to vastly outpace the United States on gigabit fiber connections. In the EU’s case, they adopted a series of policy plans to promote gigabit fiber as far back as 2016 (the same time we began abandoning oversight) and that has helped launch the open access fiber industry, which holds real promise to connect rural people to fiber to the home. South Korea had adopted several national plans to deploy fiber gigabit connections starting as far back as three decades in order to achieve the broadband networks they have now. China is expected to connect 80 percent of their households to gigabit fiber in just a few years–more than 5 times the United States, under our current no-plan approach.

Tired of Your Broadband Monopoly? Tell Your California Lawmakers to Oppose A.B. 1366

It is unfortunate we have to spend effort to prevent the California legislature from making our broadband market measurably worse with A.B. 1366. We need to make it clear that Californians want their legislature to promote competition and access— not abandon them to their broadband monopoly. Let’s start talking.

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