FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler To Cable Companies: Don’t Interfere With Broadband Competition
Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), spoke during this year's Internet and Television Expo (INTX) held in the city of Chicago, and strongly encouraged players in the cable industry to not interfere with broadband competition.
According to Wheeler, the cable industry has reach a point wherein the number of subscribers to its broadband services have now surpassed subscribers of its TV services. He further added that in in this day and age, cable companies do not have plenty of competitors for their services, especially at higher speeds. However, Wheeler stressed that in any marketplace, competition is important because it allows the industry as a whole to improve.
Wheeler's words come at a rather uneasy time between the FCC and the cable industry. Over the past few months, the FCC has moved to change the definition of broadband services as public utility in order to support the new and more rigid net neutrality rules it put into effect. Moreover, the FCC opposed a super merger that would have allowed Time Warner Cable (the second biggest cable company in the United States) to be acquired by Comcast (the country's number 1 cable company). On top of that, the FCC has also increased the speed of what should constitute broadband services, adjusting it to 25 mbps. Lastly, it has also stated that the broadband market is not competitive and has preempted laws in a couple of states that hinder broadband networks owned by municipals from expanding.
Interestingly, Wheeler has said on record that he is not really going after the cable industry. He is saying that he just wants to put a test to all the players in order to make sure that every consumer has fair access to Internet services.
That is what net neutrality is essentially all about, Wheeler argues. The idea is to treat all Internet traffic equally -- broadband service providers should not be allowed to block or even slow down a consumer's access to web content. In addition, they should not be allowed to cut deals that will allow them to charge companies like Netflix additional money in return for delivering those companies' content faster than anyone else's.
The new net neutrality rules will go into effect on June 12th of this year. Wheeler tried to reassure the cable industry that the FCC made sure to draft the new rules to not include broadband from rate regulation. Still, this has not stopped some circles from expressing concern over the potential effects of the new net neutrality rules on the industry. Whether their fears are unfounded or not, it appears that changes are underway, and they will have to start dealing with it starting a few weeks from now.