NCTA ex parte says CBUI hasn’t demonstrated need for regulation and its reasoning is based on misguided interpretation of law and history

Washington, D.C., --

In an ex parte letter (see attachment) filed late yesterday with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) said the Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators (CBUI), in its occasional filings to the FCC, has failed to point to any credible evidence that cable operators block cable modem customers from accessing any part of the Internet.

CBUI’s continued calls for broadband regulation are little more than an attempt to use the government to give CBUI companies a competitive edge, NCTA said.

Stating that proposed government regulation of the broadband Internet providers is a “solution in search of a problem,” NCTA also said in the ex parte that CBUI members have conveniently exempted themselves from their own proposed “anti-discrimination” rules. Questionable use of historical and legal precedent demonstrates CBUI’s further inability to find a legitimate reason to impose this new regulation on the Internet, NCTA said.

“CBUI has for the past year been urging the Commission to adopt regulations to ensure that cable operators who offer high-speed Internet service provide unfettered access to Internet content, applications, and hardware,” the ex parte filing said. “But despite their best efforts, CBUI’s members have been unable to come up with any evidence that cable operators are interfering, or intend to interfere, with such unfettered access.”

In the ex parte filing, NCTA said CBUI’s attempt to force government regulation of broadband Internet service providers should be rejected for the following reasons:

  • Cable broadband networks are open and non-discriminatory, which means that cable modem users have unimpeded click-through access to any lawful website and are able to freely run applications of their choice. Cable broadband users can also choose their own Internet Service Provider, home page, search engine and portal without any interference, and can choose to purchase more than 300 different modems made by more than 65 different manufacturers which are sold at retail outlets around the country.

  • CBUI members are conveniently exempt from the proposed regulations they suggest for other broadband service providers. Some of the leading companies that comprise CBUI, including Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon, all have marketing agreements and affiliations that “discriminate” against competitors under the definition of CBUI’s proposed regulation.

  • The marketplace for broadband Internet services is competitive and working. While growth in the number of subscribers to a high-speed Internet service has been steady in recent years, the large majority of Internet users still rely on dial-up narrowband access. While most consumers can currently choose between a cable modem or DSL provider for their high-speed Internet service, new technologies such as wireless, satellite and electrical grids promise to provide even more choice and competition in the near future.

  • CBUI’s use of legal and historical precedent in calling for this new government regulation of the Internet is based on cases and rulings that have little or no relevance to its proposal, which demonstrates a questionable understanding of the relevant historical facts and policy reasons for which the rules were adopted.

  • “When all is said and done, CBUI’s ceaseless campaign to impose regulation on a still-developing but well-functioning broadband Internet marketplace has yet to come up with any evidence of a problem that needs solving,” the ex parte filing said. “Its contention that prophylactic regulation is the norm, even in the absence of demonstrated harm, is groundless. Its suggestion that terms and restrictions in user agreements might conceivably be used to restrict the openness of the Internet is belied by similar and more far-reaching restrictions in CBUI members own user agreements, and its contention that cable operators have imposed significant, unreasonable restrictions on access to content, applications and hardware has no basis.”

    “The old adage, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,’ should be observed when contemplating government regulation of any sort. However, it’s especially important to consider the detrimental effect of new, unnecessary regulation on the growing Internet economy,” said Dan Brenner, NCTA Senior Vice President, Law & Regulatory Policy.

    NCTA is the principal trade association of the cable television industry in the United States. NCTA represents cable operators serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s cable television households and more than 200 cable program networks, as well as equipment suppliers and providers of other services to the cable industry.