In our current political climate, advocacy too often passes for information. As a professional economist with 30 years of experience, I’m troubled by Eli Moore’s op-ed, “Lack of broadband access threatens tech leadership” (Viewpoints, April 30).
The study claims insights on the state of the residential broadband market in California, including that “millions of middle-class and low-income Californians” don’t have adequate access to broadband. However, the study’s conclusions are specious. The communications market in California is dynamic, innovative and responsive to consumers’ demands.
Moore and his co-authors have obtained their results by conducting an extraordinarily biased survey of the market. The authors have looked only at AT&T’s fiber broadband offerings, ignoring all other wireline and wireless providers. In fact, 96.3 percent of California consumers have access to fixed broadband and 99.4 percent have access to mobile broadband at speeds of 6 mbps or more.
No economist would ever draw conclusions about the state of competition in a market with numerous service providers by looking at only one competitor. A properly designed study would consider the full array of providers and technologies available to consumers, who have experienced the benefits of a rapidly growing wireless market, increasing levels of coverage and speed, and declining prices. This study is an ad hominem attack on AT&T, not the basis for sound policy.
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The study, which claims to be about redlining, presents no evidence of redlining. The reality is that broadband access has grown rapidly and steadily in California because consumers are picking the broadband of their choice: mobile broadband and wired broadband of all kinds, including fiber-to-the-home. Every technology available – including 5G, internet over power lines, wireless fiber – is being pressed into service to close the digital divide, which has been steadily closing.
California has had a steady hand on the rudder when it comes to broadband policy. California’s leadership – over the last two administrations – has steered a policy course that avoids the kind of regulation that has mired Europe’s internet growth and embraced the kind of innovation that has allowed California to remain a technology leader.
David Sosa specializes in the economics of network industries for the Analysis Group. He is the author a CALinnovates study, “Consumer-Driven Competition in California Communications Market,” and can be contacted at email@example.com.