One day after Comcast attacked President Barack Obama for what it called a “radical reversal” in his proposed net neutrality policy, the No. 1 cable company is serving up a kinder, gentler message. It says that “some have been led to believe” that it doesn’t support net neutrality at all. And it wants to set the record straight.
“What is remarkable is that if you compare the president’s articulation of his vision for net neutrality as set forth in the White House talking points released yesterday afternoon, we are on record as agreeing with every point,” EVP David Cohen says in a blog post titled: “Surprise! We Agree with the President’s Principles on Net Neutrality.” Specifically, Comcast says it has “stated on numerous occasions that we believe legally enforceable rules should continue to include strong transparency, no blocking, and anti-discrimination provisions. We don’t prioritize Internet traffic or have paid fast lanes, and have no plans to do so.”
The rub is that Comcast believes the FCC has sufficient authority to mandate that right now — and doesn’t have to follow Obama’s advice to reclassify broadband as a regulated, phone-like communications utility. In January, a federal appeals court remanded the FCC’s previous net neutrality rules saying that they overstepped the agency’s authority unless it reclassified broadband. Open Internet advocates say that broadband providers act as an oligopoly, and the FCC must be empowered to step in if cable and phone companies begin to provide speedier service to content providers they like — putting competitors at a disadvantage.
Obama wants the FCC to promise that it will just use its authority to ensure that all content providers are treated equally, and not to regulate rates. Even so, Comcast says that a change “would harm future innovation and investment in broadband.” The company asserts that “it is simply indisputable” that reclassification “would put these significant investments in jeopardy and diminish innovation and job creation as a direct result.”
Comcast can’t afford to alienate the Obama administration too much. It needs FCC and Justice Department approval in order to go ahead with its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable.