Bush’s Goal of Affordable, High-Speed Internet Access for All Contradicts Administration Policies

Broadband Prices Have Increased; Choice Limited Under Bush

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2004
Contacts:
Chris Murray, CU, 202-462,6262
Mark Cooper, CFA, 301-384-2204

(Washington, D.C.) - President Bush's much-publicized goal of providing affordable high-speed Internet access to all Americans by ensuring "plenty of choice" in broadband service contradicts Administration policies that actually have strengthened cable and phone monopolies which have led to higher prices and less choice in broadband, Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America said today in a letter to the president.

"Given that 80 percent of Americans today do not have broadband access, we applaud your declaration of a progressive goal for the digital information age, but it will require a 180-degree change from recent policies," said the letter, signed by Gene Kimmelman, public policy director for Consumers Union, and Mark Cooper, research director for Consumer Federation of America.

Bush announced his broadband access goal Friday (March 26) in a campaign speech in Albuquerque, N.M. In announcing his support for universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, Bush was quoted as saying "…we ought to make sure as soon as possible consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to purchasing the broadband carrier. The more choices there are, the more the price will go down."

Kimmelman and Cooper noted that since the President took office, the cost of buying the services that connect cable customers to high-speed Internet has skyrocketed - a package of cable modem and expanded basic cable programming has shot up three times the rate of inflation. Also, a consumer who wants high-speed service and their own Internet Service Provider must pay their cable company $55 to $75 a month for that option.

"This trend is absolutely contrary to the President's goal of offering consumers 'more choices' in high-speed Internet service that will ensure prices go down," Kimmelman said. "We believe the Administration has moved away from giving consumers more competitive choices, and instead supported or adopted policies that have strengthened the hand of cable and phone monopolists, who together own and control virtually all broadband connections."

The letter from Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America also asked the Administration to support "a la carte" choice for video and Internet content over cable lines; adopt a "non-discrimination" policy for broadband services to foster an entrepreneurial environment; appeal the anti-consumer local phone service decision by the D.C. District Court in USTA v. FCC; and pursue a policy to ensure all Internet services are affordable and that Americans are computer literate.

The letter also reminded the Administration that more households do not have any access to the Internet in the home than have broadband access and a policy to promote universal, affordable broadband must not leave these lower income households behind.

To read the letter, go to www.consumersunion.org.