Trying to justify the cable industry's latest lawsuit over net neutrality
, former FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell has offered up an incredibly entertaining interview
in which he struggles to understand why Google tends to see higher customer satisfaction ratings than the cable industry, and tries to brush away anti-competitive concerns as the ramblings of the uninformed masses who just don't understand what a sweetheart the cable industry truly is
. In fact, Powell claims the entire net neutrality debate is an unfair persecution of an innocent cable industry and the wholesale hallucination of a few rabblerousers :
"There's probably a book we could write on this. A huge element that led to this decision was a well-orchestrated, dynamic movement, launched, housed and managed on the Internet, that created a myth that something was happening that wasn't actually happening. You can go look at all the materials from Free Press and others who said the cable industry is in the middle of setting up tolls on the Internet. But there is no justification that we were ever doing any of things we were alleged. In Mark Cuban's words, this is nothing but big-company bashing--the idea that cable is full of these evil corporate entities who are thinking of ways to screw you over."
One, if you're using Mark Cuban as an example of someone with a solid grasp on what the net neutrality debate is about, you're doing it wrong
. Two, dismissing the entire net neutrality movement as the incoherent ramblings of Free Press is dismissive and obnoxious given the millions of individuals and companies that have made their position on the issue very clear. Three, the cable industry absolutely was
engaged in bad behavior, ranging from throttling all upstream BitTorrent traffic
(and lying about it repeatedly
) to imposing usage caps to hinder internet video (and lying about the fact it was necessary to battle the network congestion bogeyman
). That's before you even touch on the obnoxious behavior of the wireless industry, and its endless efforts to block competing technologies, apps and services
It's clear while reading the interview that Powell has an absolutely devastating case of Google envy, caused in large part by Google's disruptive efforts related to Google Fiber. In trying to explain away Google's higher customer satisfaction ratings, Powell tries to argue that this is because the cable industry has to actually bill you
and occasionally come to your house to drill holes:
"We come into your house and do the difficult work of running wires and drilling holes. And unlike Google, we have to send you a bill--a bill to pay for the broadband infrastructure that Google and others profit handsomely from, but don't support directly. Yes, they have ways they support the network, too, but they don't have to directly bill their customer for tripling and quadrupling speeds. A lot of those fantastic companies that don't have to bill you may be selling your identity up, down and sideways, which we may come to regret. But Google has an 80 percent approval rating."
Ignored in Powell's statement is the fact that the cable industry does an incredibly shitty job
at billing and home installs. In fact, NCTA members Comcast and Time Warner Cable not only have the worst customer satisfaction ratings in telecom, but in any American industry
. Only the cable industry finds itself in the news constantly for employees that fall asleep at customer homes
, murder people
, dig up the wrong yard
, torture kittens
, or blow up laptops
or entire homes
. Meanwhile, Powell forgets Google is
now doing installs and billing under Google Fiber -- and the search engine company is doing a notably better job of it than the cable industry has despite a several-decade head start. That's just embarrassing, however Powell would like to paint it.
From there, Powell works hard to claim that it's Facebook and Google that are the diabolical "gatekeepers," and that the cable industry is just the little guy trying to make ends meet:
"Many of these tech companies are dramatically bigger than us. Comcast and Time Warner Cable pale in size when compared to Google, Facebook and Amazon. These are not multinationals. They're domestic American companies. In fact, there not even national companies--Comcast doesn't serve every customer in the United States ... We're called 'the gatekeepers' when companies that control 90 percent of the search market are not. I think this is misguided in ways that don't lead to constructive outcomes, but rather bad policy outcomes like net neutrality."
Well for one, someone forgot to give Powell the memo that Google and Facebook were notably absent from the last round of net neutrality
support. Meanwhile, the fact that Google and Facebook have massive international footprints and a spotty history on privacy doesn't magically explain away why the cable industry is notably more disliked than either company. Three, Powell ignores the fact that people have the choice
to use Google or Facebook. The lack of competition in broadband means that consumers are stuck with their cable provider, whether they like it or not.
Look, the reason the cable industry is so hated isn't rocket science. It's because the industry has consistently cut corners on customer service to improve quarter-over-quarter earnings, resulting in most consumers having a miserable experience every time they interact with their cable company
. Meanwhile, the one-two punch of napping regulators and the lack of serious broadband competition ensures this orchestra of apathy and dysfunction never really changes. That's not really complicated. If Powell and the cable industry really care about being well-liked, they simply have to pony up the cash to provide better customer service. Of course they'd much rather put that money in the bank, then whine like a giant, wealthy baby about how nobody likes them as much as Google.