Guess who's here to tell us we're all totally wrong about net neutrality? Of course, it's Comcast

Cable giant shares its thoughts on costs, freedom


Volunteers

Aside from the claim that the net neutrality rules will decrease investment and innovation, Comcast's big push is its claim that it will do all the things that the rules seek to impose voluntarily and willingly.

"Comcast has long supported strong, legally enforceable and permanent net neutrality protections that help to ensure a free and open Internet," it notes, referencing several statements from senior executives saying the same thing.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, for example, said that the company will "continue to strongly support a free and Open Internet and the preservation of modern, strong, and legally enforceable net neutrality protections."

Its chief diversity officer David Cohen: "We have and will continue to support strong, legally enforceable net neutrality protections that ensure a free and Open Internet for our customers, with consumers able to access any and all the lawful content they want at any time."

(Cohen also said people who "claim that broadband investment hasn’t been affected by Title II aren’t living in the real world." Make of that what you will.)

Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson chipped in with: "We do not block, slow down, or discriminate against lawful content ... Our network and business practices are in complete alignment with these protections [and that] will remain true, even if the FCC reverses public utility regulation of our broadband network."

Walk-through

Putting aside the issue of future investment, ultimately the big question (assuming there is anyone who hasn't already made up their mind) is: do you believe that cable companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T will stick to their word?

And the answer to that question is: is it in their economic interests? If Comcast, for example, does start throttling specific content, would you:

  1. Be aware or informed of it? and,
  2. Be able to easily shift to a different service?

If "yes" to both, there is a strong incentive for Comcast to maintain net neutrality. If "no" to either, then the carefully parsed words of a few executives won't mean a damn thing. Then the question becomes:

  • Can you make Comcast inform customers about what it is doing to content in order to inform the market?, and
  • How competitive is the broadband market, and so how easily can you shift to a different supplier if you wish?

The answer to the first is "no you can't unless someone exactly like the FCC has the legal authority to do so." And the answer to the second is "not very competitive at all. By design."

The truth is that Title II really is a terrible, outdated, clunky way of giving the FCC the authority to impose those rules. But it is also, currently, the only way that the FCC can effectively do it.

Just as with healthcare in the United States right now, the painfully obvious solution is for both sides to work together to reach a compromise. But as this Comcast filing makes plain, that isn't going to happen while one side thinks it can get everything it wants. In short, net neutrality continues to be a complete mess. ®

PS: The FCC has refused to hand over a copy of all 47,000 complaints it has received regarding its decision to axe America's net neutrality rules, in response to a freedom of information request.


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