This is a blog that I get to write every year – and each year, the claims get a little crazier. USTelecom recently issued its fourth annual Broadband Pricing Index and claims that broadband prices from the big ISPs are dropping. You’ll be glad to know that, according to the report, broadband prices dropped over 18% just in the last year for the most popular broadband tiers. Prices for the fastest tier of broadband dropped 6.5% last year. I’d love to hear from anybody who had their ISP cut their rate by 18% this year – that would have been a $12.60 price reduction for a $70 broadband bill.
This annual publication is so hilariously misleading that it’s hard for anybody in the industry to look at this as anything but a colossal joke. However, this report serves a purpose for the big ISPs. They can plant a seed with regulators and legislators that broadband prices are not only not increasing – but are getting cheaper. This also provides fodder for some of the unsavory folks in the broadband industry to publish articles repeating the point. This is also the kind of misinformation that will bounce around social media and confuse folks – because it’s hard to think of any examples where an ISP has ever reduced the price of basic broadband, like implied by this report.
The folks who wrote this report must have had a lot of fun finding ways to hide the facts because they came up with clever ways to produce statistics that don’t mean anything useful. A big part of the report compares the cost over time to buy a megabit of speed. Nobody would deny that speeds have increased tremendously over time, at a rate much faster than prices have increased. I was looking through some old Comcast pricing sheets. In 2009, Comcast had four broadband products that year that ranged from 12/2 Mbps for $42.95 to 50/10 Mbps for $149.95. The product that is most similar to Comcast’s current basic broadband delivered 16/2 Mbps for $52.95. Since that time, Comcast has increased the speed of basic broadband four times – to 30 Mbps, then 60 Mbps, then 100 Mbps, and now 300 Mbps. Over fourteen years, download speeds are 19 times faster than in 2009. It’s a fact that broadband has gotten faster, but that is not the same thing as cheaper.
The report also plays a sleight of hand by comparing premium products from the past to non-premium products from today. Again, with Comcast, the basic 16/2 Mbps broadband in 2009 cost $52.95 and also required a $10 modem. Today, the basic price for 300 Mbps broadband is $93 with a $15 modem. That’s an increase since 2009 of $45, a 72% increase. The authors of the report would have instead pointed to the 50/10 Mbps product as the most comparable product – but in 2009, that was a premium product priced at $149.95 plus a $10 modem. The report would say that the price of broadband has dropped.
The report makes a lot of claims by mentioning costs of broadband over time, but it never identifies the ISP or the specific products. If prices had really dropped, USTelecom would be publishing tables of the prices charged by the big ISPs for each year.
I leave it to readers to read the report, and I won’t repeat the silly math that shows the big savings. This is the fourth year of the report, and the claims have gotten wilder each year. At the rate of accumulated savings claimed by the report, in another five years, broadband is going to be free. When that happens, I will admit I am wrong and will correct this blog as being too cynical.