I was watching an interview with Blair Levin today on CSPAN and as he was questioned about the AT&T merger, he mentioned a new report by Berstein Research, which I was not aware of. A ZDNet article fills in the gaps,
Moffett noted that 44 million Americans are below the poverty line and 50 million are on food stamps. “Considerations of pricing power in telecom and media industries have traditionally been about competition, not affordability. But simple affordability may emerge as a critical factor,” said Moffett. “Real income growth in the United States has been negative during the last five years.”
Perhaps I am reading too much into this but given the kind of circles that he runs in, it suggests to me that there could be a shift in the kinds of policies that the administration pushes. I do not know what to think of Levin. In some instances he proclaims his love of deregulated markets and then in the next breath pushes for the creation of a right to media access. Even though I do not have access to the report, it is interesting that he brought it up considering that,
A central theme of our research about pay TV and telecommunications for the past two years has been the growing problem of poverty, and the inherent mismatch between the expectations of media and telecom investors for rising prices and penetration on the one hand, and the lack of means among lower-income consumers on the other. Projections for smartphone penetration, broadband adoption, and pay TV prices must take account of affordability.
This research was originally meant for investors but for Levin to mention it, the meaning changes a bit. What kinds of policies create this sort of low cost option? You could have an expanded basic service tier or the creation of an a la carte option, which most carriers have at some level. The other option, as the context of the discussion suggests, lies at the legal level of the merger. I am interested to see what kinds of concessions that the FCC is going to get from this. Mostly, this is just a sort of thinking out loud, but still I am still wondering what kinds of overarching strategies that this administration pursues with telecom.