The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued the following statement after the announcement of Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable Inc.’s, proposed merger and Charter’s acquisition of Bright House Networks: “The FCC reviews every merger on its merits and determines whether it would be in the public interest. In applying the public interest test, an absence of harm is not sufficient. The Commission will look to see how American consumers would benefit if the deal were to be approved.”
Broadband Pilot Programs
The FCC released a Wireline Competition Bureau Staff Report summarizing the 14 low-income broadband pilot projects it authorized and the data that was collected. The program was designed to study broadband adoption barriers and how the Lifeline program could best be structured to serve its statutory mission in the 21st century. All 14 projects relied on existing Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) to provide service and confirm eligibility. However, each project tested different subsidy amounts, conditions to receiving service, and outreach and marketing strategies. The Report highlights the following patterns:
- Within the fixed service projects patterns suggest consumers were willing to pay for speeds within the mid-range of options, though there was little interest in the highest speed tiers. For mobile service projects, when consumers were given the option between hotspot plans versus smartphone plans, the majority selected smartphone service plans.
- Several of the pilot projects tested varying subsidy amounts or discounts offered to consumers for both the service and a device. Patterns within the data indicate that cost to consumers does have an effect on adoption and which plans they choose. In several of the projects, when given the choice among service plans, new adopters were willing to pay for broadband service but tended to choose more modest and affordable speeds and data allowances.
- Requiring ETCs to offer or provide digital literacy training does not appear to be an efficient or effective model for converting non-adopters to adopters. Participating consumers generally had little interest in training provided by the ETCs.