Former FCC Boss Turned Top Cable Lobbyist Says Cable Industry Being Unfairly Attacked, 'No Evidence' Of Consumer Harm
from the nobody-believes-the-words-coming-out-of-your-mouth dept
One could argue (especially if you've studied regulations across the pond) that this is just what it looks like when a telecom regulator is doing its job after falling asleep for arguably fifteen years. But former FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell sees things differently. Powell took the opportunity at the cable industry's annual INTX trade show in Boston to throw a bit of a hissy fit, complaining repeatedly that the industry was under "relentless" and unprovoked "regulatory assault":
"We find ourselves the target of a relentless regulatory assault,” Powell told attendees. “The policy blows we are weathering are not modest regulatory corrections. They have been thundering, tectonic shifts that have crumbled decades of settled law and policy."...What has been so distressing is that much of this regulatory ordinance has been launched without provocation," said the NCTA head. "We increasingly are saddled with heavy rules without any compelling evidence of harm to consumers or competitors."Who says telecom lobbyists can't be comedic geniuses? Of course the cable industry enjoys some of the worst customer satisfaction ratings of any industry in America thanks to generations of regulatory capture and little real competition in broadband. After a generation of treating captive consumers poorly there's really not a more hated sector than cable, and the industry's reputation is only getting worse as it rushes to take advantage of limited competition and impose usage caps. As a result, complaints to the FCC have been skyrocketing.
"Compelling harm" should be apparent to everyone just by looking at their cable and broadband bill, and every time they call Comcast customer support.
And despite a lot of cable sector chirping about "innovation," as AT&T and Verizon back away from unwanted DSL markets, cable broadband's monopoly is only growing in the face of less competition, meaning less incentive than ever to compete on price or improve customer service across huge swaths of territory.
And you really can't find a man more responsible for keeping this status quo intact than Powell, who ran the FCC from 2001 to 2005. Powell was a vibrant example of sector dysfunction and revolving door regulators; completely incapable of even admitting the TV or broadband sectors had or has problems. His tenure was just one chapter of a more-than-fifteen-year, bipartisan stretch during which the FCC was little more than a lapdog to the sector it was supposed to be policing. As such, cable enjoyed decades of almost total local, state and federal regulatory capture, all while crowing about the immense benefits of "free markets."
The result of this aggressive dysfunction forged the cable industry we all know and love today.
Powell is best remembered for his decision to try and push broadband over powerline as a major third avenue of sector competition, thereby justifying regulatory inaction on other fronts. But Powell intentionally ignored something everybody in telecom had known for years: the technology would never actually work due to the massive radio interference it caused. But by braying about broadband over powerline being the "great broadband hope," Powell managed to deflect criticism that he was busy actually making the sector substantially worse through total inaction and ineptitude. Other FCC bosses like Kevin Martin and Julius Genachowski carried on that proud tradition.
Fast forward a decade and Powell's now lobbying for the very companies he once "regulated," complaining about unfair persecution of an industry that has been begging for a kick in the teeth for the better part of most of our adult lives. And while there are certainly plenty of sectors that deserve a hands-off regulatory approach to protect fledgling organic market evolution, the cable sector is a unique, braying beast built on the back of apathy, revolving door regulation, and an utter disdain for the captive consumers the sector serves. As such, Powell won't find too many people crying themselves to sleep just because the FCC finally decided to do something about it.