How Much Does The Cable Industry Hate Two FCC Proposals? $22M And Counting

Image courtesy of DCvision2006

The FCC has been surprisingly busy over the last couple of years, taking lots of action on phone, TV, and internet issues that plague consumers. And while their many proposals have definite fans out there in the world… the big cable companies we all love to hate are decidedly not among them.

As we’ve seen time and time again, the cable industry is really very good at mobilizing armies of lobbyists (and non-profits) to do its bidding… even when ultimately, it doesn’t get its way. And as The New York Times reports, a list of familiar names is back in Washington right now, pushing back hard on two big proposals the FCC is mulling over.

There are two big issues at play at once this time around. One is the FCC’s proposal to open up the set-top box market; the other, a set of privacy rules that would apply to how ISPs can collect and use your personal data.

Some of this lobbying work has been quite overt. It’s no secret that the industry’s big trade groups really hate it when the FCC tries to take any action that might mess with their bottom line. Although there will always be new ways to make money, the incumbent pay-TV providers don’t like having the old ones threatened.

Last month, the head of the NCTA, cable’s biggest advocate, called the recent slate of FCC proposals “distressing,” saying that “this regulatory ordinance has been launched without provocation,” and, “We increasingly are saddled with heavy rules without any compelling evidence of harm to consumers or competitors.”

But, as the NYT points out, a huge amount of the NCTA’s work is also out of the public eye. Like, for example, working with Congressional staff to draft and edit a letter to the FCC, opposing the set-top box measure, that can be signed by 60 industry-favoring lawmakers — as they did last month.

The $22 million that the industry spent on lobbying just in the first quarter of this year also funds astroturfing coalitions, blog posts, and well-placed op-ed articles advocating in their favor.

That said, just because the industry is spending all this money doesn’t mean it will get what it wants. Everyone and their grandmother put their oar in over net neutrality, after all, and that still happened (even if the court case is still pending). So, too, for certain large mergers.

So how will the FCC’s privacy and set-top box rules play out, in the end? We still don’t know — but it’s a safe guess that if the commission breaks with what the industry wants, we’ll see another wave of lawsuits try to block it.

Cable Industry Mobilizes Lobbying Army to Block F.C.C. Moves [New York Times]