The button's been pushed, and the war's about to begin

Jim BartholdWhen FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski presented his "third way" to regulate broadband--a little bit of this, a little bit of that--some observers likened it to a "nuclear" response. My mind, being the product of my youth, flashed to a classic reaction to devastating news: Bluto's diatribe when Dean Wormer tossed Delta House from Faber College in Animal House.

For those who don't remember or never knew, the rant starts when frat brother D-Day opines, "War's over, man. Wormer dropped the big one," to which Bluto (aka John Belushi) responds: "Over? Did you say over? Nothing's over until we decide it is! Was it over then the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no. And it ain't over now. ‘Cause when the goin' gets tough (long pause and music skips a beat) the tough get going. Who's with me? Let's go!"

Then Bluto runs from the room and the rest of the Deltas sit and mope.

The telecom industry isn't exactly moping right now, but there hasn't been the vituperative response (other than the beating telecom stocks took on Wall Street) that one would have expected. Maybe the industry, including wireline telcos, just need Bluto to remind them that the war wasn't over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and it's not over now because Genachowski bombed broadband.

Of course you have to give the FCC chairman his due. His timing is impeccable. He made his move after a smokescreen suggested he would take a hands-off approach and just days before cable gathered in Los Angeles for its annual self-congratulatory love fest. If the industry reacts as it has in the past, Genachowski's presence at The Cable Show will be handled with all the grace of a Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan reunion. This, in turn, will be broadly covered by the consumer media thereby assuring the chairman a sympathy advantage in the public eye and further darkening cable's reputation.

Even more brilliant is that Genachowski made his move when cable's biggest muscle was incapacitated. Comcast, which could have been expected to lead the charge against regulation, is cautiously hoping that it doesn't do anything in the next several months to ruin its chances to buy NBC Universal. Attacking, mocking or generally disagreeing with the FCC at this time would top the list of things not to do.

Delta House had already been on double secret probation before Wormer dropped the big one, so they knew something was coming. The telecom industry knew for some time nuclear attack was imminent and that Genachowski had his finger on the button.

Now that the button has been pushed, there's no running away. Starting tomorrow in Los Angeles, the war will begin in earnest.