Telecommunications: Wire-Based Competition Benefited Consumers In Selected Markets

GAO-04-241 Published: Feb 04, 2004. Publicly Released: Feb 10, 2004.
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One of the primary purposes of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was to promote competition in telecommunication markets, but wire-based competition has not developed as fully as expected. However, a new kind of entrant, called broadband service providers (BSP), offers an alternative wire- based option for local telephone, subscription television, and high- speed Internet services to consumers in the markets they have chosen to enter. This report provides information on (1) BSPs' business strategy, (2) the impact of BSPs' market entry on incumbent companies' behavior and consumer prices for telecommunications services, (3) the key factors that BSPs consider when making decisions about which local markets to enter, and (4) the success of BSPs in attaining subscribership and any key factors that may limit their success. We developed a case-study approach to compare 6 cities where a BSP has been operating for at least 1 year with 6 similar cities that do not have such a competitor. The 6 markets with a BSP presently account for more than 20 percent of the households nationwide that are in areas where BSPs currently offer the three-service package, but the results of these case studies are not generalizable to all markets.

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