FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the U.S. broadband market is being stifled by a lack of competition, resulting in lower access rates for consumers and businesses in the country.

In a speech at the headquarters of start-up incubator 1776, the chairman of the U.S. telecoms regulator said the economic future of the country is closely linked to the expansion of Internet access and speeds. Wheeler added that the growing bandwidth demands of consumers and businesses are changing the competitive landscape of the broadband sector.

“My goal is not to criticise, but to recognise that meaningful competition for high-speed wired broadband is lacking and Americans need more competitive choices for faster and better Internet connections, both to take advantage of today’s new services, and to incentivise the development of tomorrow’s innovations,” Wheeler said.

The FCC chairman said the U.S. needs a national broadband competition agenda that sets out the principles for the country’s broadband activities and will act as a roadmap for development.

Wheeler added that any public Internet policy must protect what he terms the Network Compact “those immutable values consumers have a right to expect from their network providers – such as access, interconnection, consumer protection, public safety and national security.”

The heart of the issue, in Wheeler’s eyes, is that competition in the broadband sector decreases as data rates increase. What that means is that there are fewer providers offering high-speed access than more mainstream speeds. He pointed to FCC research that shows the majority (51.5%) of consumers seeking a service offering 10 Mbps in the downlink have a choice of two providers, while the majority (55.3%) of those seeking a 25 Mbps connection have access to just one provider.

Consumer demand for high-bandwidth services is fuelling the need for greater competition and access speeds. Wheeler revealed that 60% of peak-time web usage involves streaming audio and video, and predicted the demand will increase as services including healthcare utilise the Internet for remote examination and diagnosis.

Wheeler also said the FCC’s current measure of high-speed internet - 4 Mbps - is no longer adequate, and that even rates of 10 Mbps may now