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September 14, 2012

When the Referees Start Cheating


With the football season underway many have become aware of the lockout of the National Football League referees.  When the referees made clear that an agreement before the season was not in the works, the NFL brought in replacement referees.  While the replacements have not earned high praise, no one has accused them of cheating, of ignoring facts, to change the game as they see fit. The very idea would strike most as reprehensible.

But that is exactly what's happening in a different context-at the FCC.  So what does happen when the country's communications referee starts cheating?

The FCC's mission is, in relevant part, to "...make available so far as possible...communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges."  As part of that mission it now undertakes a regular analysis of competition and service in the communications marketplace, particularly of broadband and video, via the Video Competition Report and the Section 706 Broadband Progress Report.

The conclusion of the fact-based and data-driven reports this year, as it has been for years, was that both the broadband and video markets are robustly competitive.

The report states that broadband has a 95 percent penetration rate, reaching 300 million Americans, achieved almost entirely through private investment in a mere 10 years, not including the exploding mobile broadband market of LTE and WiMax.

Believe it or not, video is even better!  With a 98.5 percent penetration rate, multichannel video programming (MVPD) reaches 128.8 million households, with the five major cable operators market share dropping to 60 percent, satellite providers claiming 34 percent, and traditional telephone companies winning 7 percent.

Despite the crush of evidence, the FCC will not say that these markets are "effectively competitive," the chairman specifically trying to redefine broadband to ignore the obvious conclusions.

When the FCC starts ignoring facts it is as bad as simply making them up.  The FCC chairman wants to play a different game-a cheating game angled to give the referees more power, not letting the players take the field and play a hard game.  The referees are seeking the acclamation of the crowds rather than appropriately leaving that to the players.


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