Cable’s deregulatory Christmas continues: Comcast, NCTA, others rejoice over likely Title II rollback

Whether it be rolled-back regulations on ISP privacy or pay-TV set-tops, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seems to place a present under the tree for the cable industry every day. (Comcast)

Call it Deregulatory Christmas for the cable industry. 

Wailing just 11 months ago at the final NCTA trade show about how they were being persecuted at the hands of the FCC, former President Barack Obama and Google, cable execs now descend the proverbial stairway every morning to find a new present under the tree, whether it be rolled-back restrictions on ISP privacy and pay-TV set-tops, or just an unprecedented haircut to corporate taxes. 

The latest bit of good news—for the cable industry that is, and probably not consumers—was announced Wednesday by newly appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who can’t seem to “get out of the way” of the communications industries he’s charged with controlling quickly enough. Pai announced that the FCC Commission would reconsider Title II regulations placed on ISPs two years ago. 

Cable companies and their representative organizations were, not surprisingly, thrilled as they lauded and applauded the FCC’s decision. 

“We fully support Chairman Pai's proposal because Title II is an outdated regulatory regime, harms investment and innovation, and is not at all necessary to guarantee consumers an Open Internet,” said David Cohen, senior executive VP and chief diversity officer for Comcast. “While some try to conflate the two issues, Title II and net neutrality are not the same. Title II is a source of authority to impose enforceable net neutrality rules. Title II is not net neutrality. Getting rid of Title II does not mean that we are repealing net neutrality protections for American consumers.”

Added NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell: “Restoring the FCC’s traditional bipartisan ‘light-touch’ approach will reestablish a better framework to advance consumer protection and to support the continued growth and expansion of internet networks throughout America. 

“Reversing the classification of internet services will not change the commitment of cable ISPs to provide an open internet experience for our customers,” Powell said. “We do not block, throttle or otherwise interfere with consumers’ desire to go where they want on the internet. A more modern regulatory framework will not change our commitment to such practices. But consumers are best served by policies that encourage ongoing investment and innovation especially as technology changes, as network demands increase, and as we focus on closing the digital divide in every community across America.”

Meanwhile, Rocco B. Commisso, founder, chairman and CEO of Mediacom, said that while living under a proverbial gulag of consumer protection under the previous FCC regime, his company still invested heavily in internet infrastructure.  

“Despite the incredible regulatory obstacles placed in our path by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Mediacom announced early last year an aggressive 3-year, $1 billion capital investment plan,” Commisso said. “Unsure if the weight of the outdated Title II regulations imposed by the Wheeler regime would ultimately spoil our efforts, the 4,600 men and women of Mediacom have worked tirelessly to, among other projects, bring gigabit internet speeds to virtually all of the 3 million homes and businesses within our 22 state footprint by the end of 2017."

The American Cable Association also chimed in: “The current utility-style rules are not needed for the FCC to ensure that consumers have access to any lawful online content, and, because these rules have discouraged ISPs from investing, they have harmed consumers' access to robust, high-quality broadband service.”