Powell stands firm against FCC policy proposals, calling them 'tectonic shifts' for cable industry

BOSTON -- NCTA President & CEO Michael Powell, in the opening keynote here lauded the cable industry's shift into "high gear" in terms of innovation and change during a "transformative period," but held fast to his view that Washington regulators are stifling that progress through dramatic policy changes.

"The policy blows we are weathering are not moderate corrections, they are thundering tectonic shifts" that are drastically changing the industry, he said to INTX attendees at the tradeshow's initial general session.

Powell cited the FCC's proposals to "throw out" existing special access regulations that will affect business services rates, as well as a current proposal to "unbundle valuable content and hand it to companies that don't protect that content," a nod at the nascent direct-to-consumer, linear OTT segment.

Those are among several major issues the cable industry has with the FCC right now, ranging from its AllVid set-top box proposal to retransmission reform and more.

But net neutrality's effect on MSOs as they pivot into roles as broadband providers is Powell's top gripe, he said. "Most troubling is (regulators') view that the communications market is bifurcated. Internet providers are allowed to roam free, but network providers … must be shackled" by regulations.

"This jaundiced view will prove detrimental to America's interests in the information age," he said.

It wasn't all doom and gloom: Powell delivered his address on INTX's new "open format" stage, set up at the far end of the exhibit hall and openly accessible to attendees, rather than being shut into an auditorium. The format represented the demise of cable's traditional "walled gardens" as operators increase TV Everywhere options and availability and rely more on their status as broadband internet service providers.

Companies like Charter have adapted to the changing market, he said, and the cable industry is beginning to take on an international tone as French MSO Altice crossed the pond to enter the U.S. market.

"At INTX we see a marketplace for all competitors," Powell said, adding that the NCTA is looking for partners, not adversaries, as the industry changes. Further, traditional MVPDs must shake off the dust and look for new ways to deliver the plethora of content and services that consumers are demanding.

"If we are bold & nimble enough we will not only survive, we will thrive."

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