NCTA’s Powell tries to redirect focus from net neutrality to Google and Facebook

NCTA president and CEO Michael Powell
NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell (NCTA)

As “Mad Men’s” Peggy Olson might say in a sales pitch, “If you don’t like the conversation, change the subject.”

That’s what NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell seemed to be trying to do yesterday while speaking in Ireland at the Cable Congress Dublin event.

Lawmakers shouldn’t be wasting their time with the “irrelevant” topic of net neutrality—or how the cable industry his lobbying group represents have recently benefited from the Republican-led FCC’s landmark rollback of net neutrality rules. 

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The focus, Powell said, should be on “edge providers” like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. “They have the size, power and influence of a nation state,” Powell said. “Antitrust policy has barely begun to address how to check this power to protect consumers and healthy competition."

Powell said the 2015 Title II regulations recently rolled back by the FCC focused too narrowly on telecom companies and a fast-fading wireline infrastructure. 

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"Net neutrality policy does not remotely address the issues companies and consumers are facing today and likely will face in the future,” Powell said. “Put simply, net neutrality is deeply rooted in engineering, consumer expectations, corporate business models and the norms of internet activity. It is firmly entrenched, and I don’t believe the open internet experience will change, whatever the outcome of the current debate.

“U.S. policymakers and regulators around the world need to pivot and focus collectively on how to craft a contemporary regulatory framework that nurtures healthy internet growth and addresses the growing list of concerns that truly impact our citizens,” Powell added. 

He said issues like data privacy, technology addiction, fake news, cybersecurity and market power all impact consumers and must be part of the policy discussion.