NCTA Chief Michael Powell Kicks Off Cable’s Latest Rhetorical Assault on Net Neutrality: The FCC Is Trying to Solve a ‘Fabricated’ Problem (SCTE 2023)

 Michael Powell.
Michael Powell.
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DENVER — With the Democratic FCC majority once again on the offensive with proposed net neutrality legislation, the cable industry's top policy figure, NCTA: The Internet & Cable Association president and CEO Michael Powell, used an opening session at his industry’s annual tech trade show Wednesday to launch a full-throated, very libertarian-leaning counter-offensive.

Powell labeled Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel’s new attempt to reclassify and regulate broadband as a Title II common-carrier service, setting rules preventing ISPs from establishing abusive restrictions and tolls, as an “illusory” effort trying to solve a “fabricated” problem.

Interviewed during a SCTE Cable-Tec Expo keynote session by CableLabs president and CEO Phil McKinney, Powell described the FCC’s approach as being rooted in regulatory solutions for problems that existed with railroads in the 1800s.

“It’s a shocking mistake,” he said. “It’s not only dated, it’s your father’s Oldsmobile.”

Powell said the cable industry has no economic incentive to arbitrate who does and who doesn’t have access to its network infrastructure.

“We’re doing pretty damn good with having open pipe,” he said.

And with artificial intelligence, piracy and Big Tech, Powell questioned the FCC's regulatory priorities.

Further, he kicked the tires on their use of time and money, given that a Republican win of the White House and Congress next year — or the Supreme Court — could quickly wipe all of the FCC’s net-neutrality work away.

Net neutrality legislation does have an ephemeral quality that comes and goes with the political cycle.

In 2017, the FCC under Republican chair Ajit Pai scrapped net neutrality rules established two years earlier by Pai's predecessor, Democrat Tom Wheeler.