NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell was invited back to C-SPAN’s The Communicators this week. And while perennial cable conversations about cord cutting and new cloud-based menu guides came up early, the core conversation of the day was Netflix, net neutrality, and Title II regulation.
Powell affirmed the industry’s position on net neutrality protections – namely that cable companies have always supported fair net neutrality rules. On the issue of fast lanes (a term Powell notes has yet to have a clear definition let alone a realistic business model), Powell said of FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposed rules, “There has been a complete distortion of what he’s doing, saying he wants fast lanes. There is no proposal to have fast lanes.” He went on to say how, after 16 years of essentially no legally enforceable net neutrality rules, ISPs have yet to try anything like a fast lane because of limited benefit to managing traffic in such a manner.
Powell talked about Title II regulation and the desire by some to turn cable into a utility. To this, Powell addressed the unintended consequences of such severe regulation, asking “Is regulating the Internet like a public utility going to make it faster? Cheaper? More accessible?” These – the only worthwhile measures for broadband success – have deeply unclear answers if broadband were re-classified. Powell listed the inherent tax implications, the loss to investment dollars, the disenfranchisement of consumer protections from the FTC, and a litany of other very real consequences to taking a network that was built by private dollars and suddenly handing it over to a regulatory body ill-equipped to handle a modern fiber-copper network.
The full segment (available below) is a concise detailing of how cable sees itself as well as an address on the misinformation surrounding net neutrality and the role ISPs play in the television and broadband ecosystem.
And for more on the issues of Netflix and the peering debate, see Powell’s recent blog post, “Why is Netflix Strong-Arming the Net Neutrality Debate?”