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A Threat to PA High-Speed Internet Access?

April 9, 2012

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Consumer groups in Pennsylvania and around the country say a spectrum deal between Verizon and Cox Communications - and one with a group of cable companies known as SpectrumCo - will grab a large share of the wireless spectrum and lead to less competition and higher prices. The plan is currently being reviewed by the FCC.

Telecommunications unions call the consolidation "job-killing."

Parul Desai, communications policy counsel for Consumers Union, says that because of a joint marketing arrangement involved in the deal land-line customers will be adversely affected, too.

"Any consumer who's going to want to rely on high-speed access, whether it's for gaming, music, video, even telehealth, should be concerned that they'll only have one choice in their market when it comes to high-speed broadband Internet access."

In December, Verizon Wireless filed an application with the FCC seeking permission to purchase spectrum owned by South Canaan Cellular Communications in Pike and Wayne Counties.

Edyael Casaperalta, research associate at the Center for Rural Strategies, says Pennsylvanians living outside the state's urban areas may be among the most affected by the deal.

"You know, if several companies are coming together and they're going to do business together, then they really turn into one company. So, then that means that there is less competition for the business of rural customers."

Casaperalta says smaller companies that provide wireless services in less-populated areas will likely get squeezed out of the marketplace if the Verizon spectrum deal is approved.

"Well, the bottom line why people should oppose this deal is because it does not allow rural providers, whether they're broadband or wireless, to compete and provide service for rural communities."

Verizon says with smartphone traffic predicted to be more than 25 times higher in 2015 than it is today, it needs to acquire the spectrum, and denies it will stifle competition.

According to the company, it is "critical" that the cable spectrum be used because of the explosive growth in data-intensive mobile services such as smartphones, tablets and video streaming.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA