What does your cable company have to do with climate change solutions? A lot! Attractively priced high speed broadband Internet service is the gateway to our homes, offices and factories adopting Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that will slash emissions and operating costs while also growing America’s economic competitive advantage.
But that vision is challenged by cable companies using their monopoly/oligopoly powers to inflate consumer prices and create artificial barriers to competing innovations that then delay consumer adoption of IoT solutions.
Smart Buildings Use Connectivity to Reduce Costs and Emissions
Buildings account for 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption. Adoption of IoT connectivity will enable buildings to price arbitrage between buying grid electricity and using onsite solar, batteries and smart load controls to deliver reduced (zero!) emissions and lower costs without sacrificing occupant safety, health or productivity.
By the 2030s there is the potential for 5G wireless connectivity to be the universal connectivity solution. But America cannot wait that long. Today, it is cable companies that are the pathway to America’s IoT potential for slashing climate changing emissions and increasing business competitiveness.
Cable’s Monopoly Power
Consumer frustration over Internet prices and speeds is directly linked to the reality that cable companies are either monopolies or oligopolies.
Even worse, unlike electricity monopolies, cable companies are basically unregulated. Most rates charged by cable companies are not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Nor are they regulated at the local level by their local franchising authority (LFA) that is usually a city, county or other government agency. LCAs are empowered to regulate “basic” cable service. BUT there is no FCC requirement for LFA regulation and very few LFAs continue to regulate cable rates.
This lack of cable company regulation has resulted in practices that deprive consumers from purchasing least cost, high speed connectivity without also buying the cable company’s bundled price packages that include other cable company services and products. These price bundles maximize cable company revenues by creating artificial price barriers to competing streaming services, apps, modems and boxes. This price distortion and manipulation reduces consumer purchases of higher speed connectivity which, in turn, reduces consumer adoption of IoT enabled climate change solutions. The proof lies in the fact that America’s average Internet speed is slower than Singapore’s, Thailand’s, Hungary’s or Romania’s. America is not even in the top ten countries for Internet speed. And for higher than average speeds the cable companies…wait for it…charge higher prices.
Cable Company Legislation Will Accelerate Climate Change Solutions
Consumers and competitors cannot overcome cable company monopoly/oligopoly powers. America must regulate cable monopolies/oligopolies if it is to create cost effective, climate change solutions and enable our technology competitiveness.
The first federal legislative step is to return cable companies to being just cable companies. This means removing their price bundling power that currently skews consumer choices away from competing streaming services, apps, modems and boxes. “Technology neutrality” was a regulatory action taken when AT&T was a land line monopoly and blocked competing telecommunication technologies. It needs to be applied to cable companies.
The second Federal legislative step is to mandate that cable prices be based on costs audited by independent agencies similar to electricity prices. Importantly, this cost-based regulation should generate financial rewards or penalties for cable companies based on their performance in delivering globally competitive high-speed service and achieving high levels of consumer access to the fastest Internet speeds.
America and the Environment Cannot Afford Cable Monopolies
Connectivity is to the 21st century what the assembly line was to the 20th century. It is the path to mass market technology adoptions that will determine America’s success in growing the economy and creating climate change solutions.
Cable companies are to the 21st century what Standard Oil was in the 20th century. Cable company monopoly powers are artificially raising prices. The result is a slower consumer adoption rate of technologies that win competitive advantage and achieve climate solutions.
This is a price that America and the environment cannot afford.
We need to demand federal legislation if America is to achieve least cost, broadest access high speed connectivity that will enable the conversion of our current “dumb” homes, offices and factories into smart buildings delivering lower costs, higher occupant productivity and enhanced human health.