Americans want faster Internet service for video and other applications and the government needs to stimulate more competition, the nation's top communications regulator said Thursday, touching on a topic debated in Comcast Corp.'s proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc.
"Meaningful competition for high-speed wired broadband is lacking," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a speech in Washington. "Americans need more competitive choices."
Wheeler said his agency should protect and encourage broadband competition through efforts such as setting open-Internet policy to keep the Internet "free from barriers erected by last-mile providers." He didn't announce new regulations.
Most Americans have no competitive choice for speeds of 25 megabits per second, he said. The FCC in June reported an average subscriber speed of 21.2 megabits.
Comcast, an Internet service provider that is the largest U.S. cable company, and opponents of its planned merger with Time Warner Cable, the No. 2 provider, have disagreed on the proper measurement for broadband, or high-speed Internet service. The FCC and Justice Department are reviewing the $45.2-billion deal.
If a standard of 25 megabits per second is used, a combination of Comcast and Time Warner Cable would control 50% of residential broadband connections, deal opponent Dish Network said. The "chokehold over the broadband pipe" would stifle competition, Dish said in a regulatory filing.
Claims of harm to broadband competition from a market share of 50% or more are "incorrect and based on faulty assumptions or wrong facts," Comcast said in an Aug. 22 filing.