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USTelecom Petition Threatens Broadband Competition

By Carson Coffman, President/Chief Operating Officer

Socket Telecom, LLC

 

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When I talk to friends, neighbors and fellow business owners about broadband services, there is one constant refrain I hear: “I wish there were more (and better) choices.”

The vast majority of Americans today have little to no choice of broadband provider. In fact, almost half of Americans live in a broadband monopoly, with broadband service available from only one provider. Another 30 percent live in a broadband duopoly, with only two high-speed internet providers to choose from. It is clear Americans need more broadband choice and competition.

That’s why, in the face of these numbers, it is so brazen that big telecom companies like AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon are seeking to cut off competition. They recently filed a petition at the Federal Communications Commission through their trade group USTelecom that seeks to eliminate their obligation to lease certain network infrastructure to local, competitive providers. The networks at issue were paid for and continue to be subsidized by the public, resulting in a government-created monopoly with every competitive advantage over new entrants into the telecom and broadband markets. Therefore, the obligation to lease infrastructure was originally instated in 1996 to encourage other carriers to enter the telecom and broadband markets, spurring competition and improving services for everyone.

And the law has started to do just that. Local, competitive providers like Socket (headquartered in Columbia, MO) have popped up across the country. We offer a competitive choice to those who previously may have only had access to a big telecom giant. In many cases, local providers like Socket offer service in communities, especially rural areas, where even the big guys refuse to build.

If the petition is granted, it will limit, or potentially even eliminate, broadband competition for hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country. They will face higher prices, poor customer service, and worst of all, a slowdown in the build of high-speed internet to the areas that need it most.

Today, Socket provides service to homes, large corporations, small businesses, non-profit organizations and community institutions like schools, hospitals and fire departments. Over the past two decades, we’ve expanded to hundreds of cities, and we’re currently building new fiber networks to tens of thousands of homes and businesses across Missouri.

Unfortunately, big telecom’s petition threatens to dramatically slow our expansion. We can use the legacy infrastructure at issue in this petition as a stepping stone to bring fiber technology to new areas. New networks provide communities with access to critical services, while encouraging small businesses and startups to grow and invest in local communities. This investment leads to new opportunities and economic growth for America’s heartland.

If the telecom giants succeed in cutting off competition, they will have zero incentive to provide fast, reliable services at reasonable prices. They will continue to bleed their antiquated networks for cash – networks that were paid for and continue to be subsidized by the public – for as long as they can. The growth and innovation unleashed by competitive broadband and the race to build new networks will be grounded before it truly has a chance to take off. Homes and businesses across the country benefit from competition and the ability to choose the provider that best meets their individual needs, yet for many, this action will take that choice away.

Every American who values competition, choice and innovation should oppose this petition, and I urge you to do so as well. Please call your Congressional representatives, or visit www.bridge2broadband.com to submit a letter directly to the FCC.

 

Carson Coffman

President/Chief Operating Officer

Socket Telecom, LLC

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Founded in 1994, Socket is a Missouri-based telephone and internet service provider with the largest service area in the state. Socket is a privately held company that provides families and businesses a choice for local and long-distance phone and internet service. It combines the highest quality customer service with in-depth technical knowledge. Socket’s customers enjoy simple billing and quick, friendly service. For additional information, visit www.socket.net.

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