Comcast Admits Net Neutrality Rules Had No Real Impact On The Company
from the chilling-effect-of-bullshit dept
Back when AT&T, Verizon and Comcast were fighting tooth and nail against the FCC’s net neutrality rules, you’ll recall that most of them made all manner of breathless, hyperbolic claims about how net neutrality would demolish sector investment, rip the planet off its axis, and disrupt the time-space continuum. For example in 2014 Comcast was quick to try and claim that the passage of such consumer protections would hurt jobs, stifle investment, and otherwise forge a calamitous, unlivable hellscape:
“The sheer uncertainty surrounding such a regulatory environment would produce ?a profoundly negative impact on capital investment.? By itself, reduced investment would inhibit job creation, hinder the deployment of broadband infrastructure, and undermine the ?virtuous circle? of innovation that the open Internet rules are designed to advance.”
Of course, none of that actually happened. And while the industry did try to pay some industry-allied think tankers to fudge the numbers and make it look as if an investment apocalypse occurred, the actual numbers never actually supported that. While not always the case in less competitive areas, overall sector investment has been as healthy as ever, especially as wireless providers fixate on deploying fifth generation (5G) wireless services.
Speaking at an investor conference last week, Comcast CFO Mike Cavanaugh basically acknowledged that the company overstated the perils of the country’s relatively basic net neutrality protections (and the reclassification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II), admitting the impact of net neutrality on Comcast’s actual business one way or the other was negligible:
“If you saw Title II go away or the reclassification undone,? the analyst asked, ?would that be a meaningful change or meaningful benefit for Comcast?”
Cavanaugh?s answer? Basically, it doesn?t matter.
?I think in terms of what actually happens,? Cavanaugh said, ?it?s the fear of what Title II could have meant, more than what it actually did mean.?
Except the “fear of what Title II could have meant” was driven largely by baseless hysteria concocted by Comcast itself. And immediately after effectively admitting that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself, Cavanaugh tried to suggest that the faintest specter of a telecom regulator actually doing its job had a “chilling effect” all the same (citation needed). He also tried to claim that Comcast really, truly loves net neutrality despite making up complete bullshit repeatedly in an attempt to scuttle it:
“As you know, we very much believe in the principles behind what [the] policy was trying to get at,? he continued, ?but the overhang of where it could go in the future was something that I think had a chilling effect. Hopefully that chilling effect is gone; both from how investors look at the space and businesses look at the space.”
Cavanaugh’s enthusiasm about the lifting of this nonexistent “chilling effect” is obvious: the incoming Trump administration is making it abundantly clear it intends to not only gut net neutrality, but defund and defang the FCC itself. Comcast’s actually facing less broadband competition than ever before as telcos give up on residential broadband to focus on content and advertising. Combine that with the looming, actual “chilling effect” of a rubber stamp toothless regulator in charge of a broken market, and it’s clear that consumers, startups and innovators have plenty to worry about, even if Comcast doesn’t.