Amazon might become ISP in Europe, but laws make US launch unlikely

Amazon reportedly wants to be a reseller instead of building its own network.


Amazon is reportedly considering offering home Internet service in Europe. However, the company would probably not do so in the United States because US law doesn’t guarantee wholesale access to existing networks.

Amazon hasn’t commented publicly on the topic, which was raised today in a report by The Information (subscription required). The technology news site quotes “a person briefed on the discussion” as saying that Amazon is considering whether to offer Internet service over the networks of existing providers. Since Amazon reportedly doesn’t want to build its own network, it would have to purchase wholesale access, which isn’t available everywhere.

“In parts of Europe, such as Britain, broadband providers like British Telecom are required to offer wholesale access to their network to rivals,” The Information noted. “A US offering would be tougher to pull off as US regulators don’t require cable operators to open up their networks to rivals.”

Another potential landing spot for Internet service is Germany, “where the main provider Deutsche Telekom makes its network available to other broadband providers such as United Internet and Vodafone Germany.”

Amazon could bundle Internet and video using its existing Prime service, creating a package similar to those offered by cable TV and Internet providers, the report said. Amazon did not return a request for comment from Ars today.

In the US, where consumers usually have at most one choice for high-speed broadband in any given city or town, ISPs generally haven’t opened their wired networks to resellers. ISPs like AT&T have also filed lawsuits and used their control over utility poles to stall competitors like Google Fiber. Network “unbundling” requirements that could boost home broadband competition by requiring wholesale access were done away with more than a decade ago, and the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t reinstated them.

There is plenty of wholesale access in the US mobile industry, which is far more competitive than the country’s home Internet market. Google has taken advantage of this wholesale access to offer its own Project Fi wireless phone service. Amazon could consider offering wireless Internet in the US without building its own network, but an Amazon home Internet service in the US doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

Promoted Comments

AdamM wrote:
Boskone wrote:
AdamM wrote:

Just curious.

Do these arrangements ever result in speed competition or just price competition?

Even if it’s just price competition that’s still useful obviously.

Given the state of US internet compared to other environments (more expensive and slower), I’d expect competition in both price and service result from a competitive market.

Price wise certainly, but I wondered if you have a similar effect to that of the MVNO wireless market in the US where you have a dozen discount providers, but no real speed or coverage improvements.

In other words do resellers in the UK also install improved infrastructure or do they just rely on whatever BT installs themselves?

Varies by local market.

In some markets, they just use the BT wires and backhaul. In others they will install their own equipment in the box near the user’s house and run their own connection to the house (LLU https://en.wikipedia…op_unbundling).
So it depends on the status of your local exchange.

The speed also depends on what has been enabled at the local exchange, with upgrades to VDSL being made gradually. BT/Openreach are responsible for upgrading the exchanges to enable new services.


Openreach runs the network part. We started off with ADSL (8mbit) being enabled for people to use (third party providers), then ADSL2 (24mbit), then LLU (24mbit but without relying on BT/Openreach so much) and now VDSL (up to 76mbit), but each rollout varies by the local market so what’s available will depend on whether your local exchange has been upgraded.

If you go here and enter an example postcode you can see what sort of thing is available:


Here are a couple of example postcodes:

There are also cable (200mbit) and fibre (gbit) providers, but their coverage is much more limited. ADSL/ADSL2 is available to most of the country. LLU to a smaller portion, VDSL to an even smaller portion. Not sure about where cable fits in against the copper wire broadband.

Then FTTP is even smaller, and mostly being rolled out to specific high density buildings like specific blocks of flats in cities, and not to general housing.

I think the amount of BT network you use depends on what you want to do. I think you can potentially use the entire BT network for your entire service as an VNO type thing, or you can use a much smaller amount by having your own wires through LLU and hooking up your own backbone to the network.

https://www.openreac….uk/orpg/home/p … sJCb3sZkz