How We Got Into This Mess

The Lack of Choice in Internet Service Providers

You’ve finally found the perfect apartment. Enough space for you, your boyfriend, and your dog. A kitchen that doesn’t have an ant problem and a bathroom that doesn’t surprise you with freezing cold showers every now and then. There’s even parking right by the building! There’s just one problem – there’s only one Internet service provider in the building and you’ve already had an upsetting history of bad Internet connections and worse customer service with them. This total lack of competition in Internet service providers hasn’t been around forever – once upon a time, there was a lot of choice and competition in the US for Internet service providers.

From around 1994 to about 2000, Internet was available to everyone through dial-up. By 2000, there were around 10,000 different companies providing different kinds of Internet to people. But by 2002, Internet technology started to move on and advance into faster speeds. With that advancement came less choice since the faster speeds could only be delivered through cable and fiber. You might be wondering how that became an issue of choice, but it became the number one reason that monopolies dominate the market today.

In this vertically integrated industry, Internet monopolies formed naturally. The right of way in buildings, where cables and fiber for your Internet go, are owned by building owners and are a limited resource. Once that space is snapped up by major corporations like Comcast or Verizon, that’s it for Internet in your building. Technology has to keep forging ahead to provide Internet connections that don’t require usage of the right of way. It’s hard to develop technology when the FCC continues to regulate the industry with outdated telecom mandates in a feeble attempt to keep the Internet open. Having one body regulating the industry also makes that regulation susceptible to lobbyists pushing for the needs of the Internet monopolies in existence.

The only way for there to be more choice is for more companies to have the freedom to develop new technology to deliver Internet in new ways and therefore injecting more competition into the industry. Heavy regulation of small companies is a hindrance to choice and just allows monopolies to grow bigger and bigger. We’re a long way away from the 10,000 companies offering Internet of yore, but we hope our own efforts to bring more choice into the Boston area will be a task that is undertaken on by more small companies trying to provide Internet to different communities.

Yna Aggabao | Marketing Intern