Friday, October 14, 2022

In the Face of Inflation, Prices Fall for Internet and Wireless Services

On October 13, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for September 2022. The overall CPI for September 2022 showed a sharp year over year increase of 8.2%, as Americans continue to be battered by inflation. However, CPI data for September 2022 shows significantly smaller increases or even slight decreases for communications and multi-channel video programming distributor (MVPD) services. Residential landline services have risen 3.6% year over year, and satellite and cable TV subscription services have gone up just 2.2%. Meanwhile, prices for internet services actually decreased 0.01% year over year, and prices for wireless services decreased 1.1% over that same timespan. 

One cannot reasonably or honestly deny that Americans are facing serious hardships due to high inflation. But the fact that communications and MVPD services are outperforming the bad inflationary trends – and even holding the line in the face of those trends for Internet and wireless services – is a testament to the strong private network investment and the competition in those markets. As USTelecom has reported, broadband providers' capital expenditures reached $86 billion in 2021. And CTIA reported that wireless providers' capital expenditures totaled $35 billion last year. Those investments have increased fixed and wireless broadband network capacities and geographic reach, giving overwhelmingly most consumers competing choices across platforms.

To help ensure pro-consumer pricing trends continue in fixed and mobile broadband Internet access services, the FCC should continue adhering to the light-touch regulatory framework that it applies to those services under Title I of the Communications Act. The Commission should maintain its reforms that bar unreasonable local permitting process delays for constructing wirelines and wireline infrastructure facilities as well as for making minor modifications and upgrades. And the Commission should act as quickly as it reasonably can to repurpose more spectrum for licensed commercial wireless use, including in the lower 3 GHz band. Promoting market investment and competition offer the best practical means for the Commission to ensure broadband availability and affordability. 


P.S. For an examination of broadband pricing trends against a longer timeframe, see Free State Foundation Senior Fellow Andrew Long's June 30 blog post, "2022 USTelecom Broadband Pricing Report: Further Proof that Competition is Benefiting Consumers.