Cable One Breaks With Past To Defend Broadband Markets

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2024 – Cable One today unveiled a new marketing strategy in response to competitive threats from fiber network builders and fixed wireless access (FWA) providers like T-Mobile and Verizon.

The company decided in a selective way to offer current and new Internet customers unlimited data plans and flash sale offers of 100 mbps Internet service for $25 a month. In one market, Cable One is reportedly offering 1 Gig download speeds for $39.99 a month.

“We have re-engineered our go-to-market approach to strategically target new customer segments with attractive pricing and product offerings, deploy countermeasures to address competition and expand our network footprint,” Cable One CEO Julie Laulis told Wall Street analysts on an earnings call today.

The company is targeting “value-conscious” customers via “surgically implemented changes to our pricing and packaging to broaden our appeal to new and existing customers,” she said.

But Laulis acknowledged that the new pricing strategy comes at the cost of negatively impacting average revenue per user (ARPU), a Wall Street metric used to gauge per-customer profitability. Read more.

Office table with laptop computer, digital tablet, smartphone, pencil and mouse on isolated pure white background / Laptop and tablet mockup concept. (Selective Focus)

Cable Raising Legal Concerns About FCC’s All-In Pricing Plan

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 22, 2024 – Federal regulators are moving forward with a plan to regulate the look and substance of cable and satellite TV bills and their promotional materials, including ads with pricing information.

Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced yesterday she would hold a March 14 vote on her “All-In” billing proposal, one of several aimed at tightening the agency’s grip on cable and satellite TV providers at a time when both services are seeing millions of their customers flee to streaming services.

Cable and satellite TV providers have raised numerous legal objections, including that the agency lacks authority from Congress to move ahead. The clash suggests the FCC and the two pay-TV providers will meet in federal court later this year.

Rosenworcel wants consumers to receive a single price for the cost of video programming that incorporates a range of fees normally broken out as individual line items on bills. As of now, the All-In billing mandate would not include taxes and other charges unrelated to video programming, such as remote controls and set-top boxes. Read more.

Fiber Investment Fuels Shentel’s Broadband Subscriber Growth

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 21, 2024 – Shentel’s bet on fiber broadband networks continues to drive company growth.

Shentel’s Glo Fiber service, launched in 2019 in Harrisonburg, Va., finished 2023 with nearly 42,000 subscribers, up 71.7% year-over-year. Passings reached about 234,000, up 58.6% from year-end 2022. Glo Fiber revenue in 2023 grew 91.9% to $35.1 million.

“We expect to accelerate the pace of Glo Fiber construction and sales again in the next year, continuing the annual improvements that we’ve made in the past there years,” Shentel CEO Christopher French said on an earnings call today.

Shentel added 4,592 broadband subs in last year’s fourth quarter – one of the few among publicly traded broadband companies to report new additions during that same period.

Shentel Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Edward H. McKay said the company wasn’t feeling competitive pressure from T-Mobile’s fast-growing Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) service. Shentel sold its wireless company to T-Mobile in 2021 for $1.95 billion. Read more

Cable Trade Groups Take FCC To Court Over Digital Discrimination Rules

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 20, 2024 – Cable-affiliated Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are challenging new federal digital discrimination rules in federal court in Washington, D.C, the second major legal case to target the rules.

The suit was filed Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by NCTA - The Internet & Television Association and ACA Connects, which combined represent hundreds of broadband ISPs, the vast majority of them small.

Last November, the Federal Communications Commission adopted digital discrimination rules in implementing Section 60506 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, a law that also includes $42.45 billion in broadband deployment grants.

The FCC’s rules not only cover intentional discrimination but also unintentional acts under a legal doctrine known as “disparate impact,” which can hold parties liable and subject to fines and other penalties regardless of intent.

“This standard applies to a staggering array of ‘covered elements of service,’ including not only the deployment of broadband facilities, but also prices, speeds, network reliability, customer service, language options, credit checks, advertising, and much more,” the cable associations said in the court filing. Read more.

Conexon: FCC Needs To Avert ‘Impending ACP Calamity’

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 20, 2024 – The Federal Communications Commission needs to pump money into an established low-income broadband program to avert a calamity if Congress fails to provide new funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), according to Missouri telecom firm.

Conexon LLC – a consultant to rural electric cooperatives deploying fiber broadband networks – filed an expedited petition today urging the FCC to modify the Lifeline program to help the most economically challenged from potentially losing broadband service within a few months.

“The problem is that the country now finds itself on a broadband precipice,” Kansas City-based Conexon said. “We face the prospect that well-meaning, but ill-conceived, federal policies that intend to make fixed broadband services affordable for low-income consumers will make broadband beyond the reach of many low-income consumers.”

The ACP – which provides $30 discounts on monthly Internet bills of low-income households – is no longer accepting new applications because the program is expected to end in April without new funding from Congress. The White House is urging Congress to add $6 billion to the ACP. Read more

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Does New Sports Streamer from Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery Need to Grow to Survive? The Streamable, Feb. 19, 2024

Commentary from Policyband is casting doubt on whether the new joint venture streamer will be able to survive in the face of gigantic tech firms like Apple and Google.

But Ted Hearn, editor of Policyband has a different reaction: that even before the streamer’s launch, it’s too small to stand up to Big Tech firms like Apple, Google and Amazon.

▪ Hearn points to the market capitalization of the three companies joining the JV versus that of Big Tech companies.

▪ He suggests that Comcast and Paramount Global join the JV to make it a true juggernaut.

▪ Big Tech firms have not historically proven more successful at making streaming a profitable business than entertainment companies. Read more.

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Liberty Broadband CEO: Fixed Wireless ‘Noise’ Will Subside

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 18, 2024 – Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) providers, led by T-Mobile and Verizon, added nearly one million Internet subscribers in the fourth quarter last year while many wireline rivals moved in the opposite direction by losing thousands of customers.

Nevertheless, Gregory B. Maffei, President & Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Broadband Corp., believes that FWA providers can’t sustain their growth curve because their networks do not have sufficient spectrum capacity.

“There's been a consistent trend in 2023 of increased competition from fixed wireless, but we do believe the competitive noise will lessen over time,” Maffei told Wall Street analysts on Friday. “Fixed wireless assets will have capacity issues over the long term and the operators have been clear on their limitations. And we do believe that bandwidth demands will continue to increase among consumers, which will favor higher speeds.” Read more

GCI CEO Sees Wireless Upside If ACP Expires

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb.19, 2024 – Alaska’s largest telecommunications company is hoping to nab wireless customers from AT&T and Verizon if the Federal Communications Commission is forced to shut down its big Internet subsidy program in April.

Ronald Duncan, Chief Executive Officer of GCI in Anchorage, said the company's GCI+ offering – which bundles home broadband with mobile service starting at $99.99 a month – is positioned to attract AT&T and Verizon customers that lose their monthly federal subsidy under the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

“We do believe there's an upside opportunity on wireless, because nationwide half of ACP goes to wireless providers,” Duncan said on a call with Wall Street analysts last Friday. 

GCI, wholly owned by Liberty Broadband Corp. since 2020, is hoping to underprice AT&T and Verizon offerings to woo former ACP enrollees, Duncan said. Read more.

NAB Questioning Rosenworcel’s Local Content Incentive Plan

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 18, 2024 – Broadcasters are raising questions about a plan in which the Federal Communications Commission would give priority treatment to broadcast licensees that offer locally originated programming.

Lawyers for the National Association of Broadcasters are telling the FCC that broadcasters do not need processing incentives to supply local content, adding that TV and radio stations face cost barriers in trying to go beyond what they are already doing today.

“Many stations simply cannot afford to produce a wide array of locally originated programming,” the NAB lawyers said in a Feb. 15 filing with the FCC to document a recent meeting with two top aides to Democratic FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez.

The FCC’s proposal, unveiled by Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel last month, would give prioritized evaluation of applications for the renewal, transfer, or assignment of a license if the broadcaster can certify that it provides locally originated programming. Read more.

Consolidated Communications Exiting Cable TV In 2024

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Feb. 16, 2024 – Consolidated Communications is planning to exit the cable TV business by the end of year as the company plans to focus on a broadband-first strategy that connects consumers to online video streaming services.

Consolidated has already begun notifying local officials in eight states that it will stop providing cable TV in 2024. Communities in Butler and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania received notice this month that they will lose service on March 26.

Consolidated Communications has about 26,000 video subscribers nationally – less than 7% of its broadband customer base.   

“Consolidated’s strategy is based on a fiber-first product offering, which provides consumers and businesses a future-proof technology with unlimited bandwidth potential. As we make this transition, it will mean sunsetting some legacy products, such as linear TV services,” said Consolidated Communications Senior Communications Specialist Kyle Thweatt.

One official in Jefferson Township, Pa., said Consolidated needed to provide customers more time than just a few weeks to find a new video service. Read more.

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Legal Background

FCC Title II NPRM – Oct. 20, 2023

FCC's Draft Title II Fact Sheet – Sept. 26, 2023

Draft NPRM, Sept. 28, 2023

FACT Sheet, Sept. 26, 2023

Title II "Net Neutrality" Broadband RulesWould Breach Major Questions Doctrine

By Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. and Ian Heath Gershengorn