|Published by NetAction||Issue No. 21||July 26, 2001|
Prompted by numerous published reports about the problems consumers have experienced with digital subscribe line (DSL) service, NetAction conducted an online survey of broadband users earlier this year to determine the level of satisfaction with DSL service. Overall, we found that DSL users who get service from the incumbent regional Bell monopolies have a higher percentage of complaints than consumers served by competitive DSL providers or cable broadband providers.
Our report on the survey findings was released on July 25, 2001, and is available on our web site at: http://www.netaction.org/broadband/dsl. The survey results appear to support the anecdotal reports about problems.
In general, we found that consumers getting DSL service from a regional Bell company had to wait longer to have service started, were more likely to have been billed before service commenced, and were less satisfied with technical support and customer service than DSL subscribers using competitive providers. This isn't surprising since the Bells effectively control the DSL market.
According to Prof. Yale M. Braunstein of the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley, the regional Bells control about 90% of the nation's residential DSL service. Dr. Braunstein recently published a white paper on "Market Power and Price Increases in the DSL Market." It is available on the web at: http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/~bigyale/dsl.html.
In his paper, Dr. Braunstein argues that the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001, (HR 1542), would discourage the development of a competitive broadband market. Competition is already being restricted by the Bells' business and pricing practices, which include delaying the availability of lines for competitors and charging unreasonably high wholesale prices. Here in California, for example, SBC/PacBell actually charges competitive broadband providers more for wholesale service than consumers pay for retail service.
Is it any wonder that competitive broadband providers are struggling to survive? The lack of competition is also apparent in the recent price hikes in residential DSL service. As Dr. Braunstein observed, "This would not be a rational move in a competitive market."
Although the fate of HR 1542 is uncertain, it's authors -- Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan - are not giving up. As long as they continue to work toward freeing the Bells from rules and regulations that were designed to promote increased competition, consumers will need to keep their guard up. Without meaningful competition, the level of consumer dissatisfaction can only increase.
NetAction's report on DSL customer satisfaction is based on a survey of 672 broadband users conducted online in April using a sample obtained from Zoomerang, an online survey clearinghouse. The results were analyzed and interpreted by Dr. Rashmi Sinha, a researcher and lecturer in the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley.
The survey findings are summarized below:
Of the DSL users who had at least one contact with technical support, the percentage of Bell customers who described themselves as dissatisfied was almost twice that of competitors' customers (29.8% of Bell DSL users compared to 16.1% of users served by competitors).
Of the DSL users who had at least one contact with customer service, the percentage of Bell DSL users who reported being dissatisfied with customer service was almost double that of customers served by competitors (28.7% of Bell customers compared to 16.5% of users served by competitors).
A higher percentage of DSL users who waited more than a month for service to start were Bell customers (43.9% of Bell customers compared to 27.9% of DSL users served by competitors). Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of the Bell customers felt that the wait was too long (50.9% of Bell customers compared to 36% of customers served by competitive DSL providers).
Nearly twice as many Bell DSL customers reported being billed before service started (18.6% of Bell customers compared to 10.5% of customers served by competitive DSL providers).
In the comparison of DSL and cable broadband users, more than twice as many DSL users reported waiting over a month for service to start (36.4% of DSL users compared to 13.8% of cable broadband users). Again not surprisingly, a higher percentage of DSL users felt that the wait was too long (43.91% of DSL users compared to 25.93% of cable broadband users).
In the comparison of DSL and cable broadband users, nearly three times as many DSL users reported being billed before service started (14.8% of DSL users compared to 5.2% of cable broadband users).
Broadband Briefings is a free electronic newsletter, published by NetAction to promote policies that encourage rapid and widespread deployment of high-speed Internet access. NetAction is a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting use of the Internet for grassroots citizen action, and to educating the public, policycmakers, and the media about technology policy issues.
To subscribe to Broadband Briefings, send email to:
The body of the message should state:
To unsubscribe at any time, send email to:
The body of the message should state:
For more information contact NetAction by phone at (415) 215-9392, by E-mail at , visit the NetAction Web site, or write to:NetAction * P.O. Box 6739* Santa Barbara, CA 93160
Copyright 1999-2003 by NetAction. All rights reserved. Material may be reposted or reproduced for non-commercial use provided NetAction is cited as the source.