Cable Congress in Dublin opened with a rallying call for regulators to move on from framing the debate in terms of infrastructure providers versus the free and open Internet.
Manuel Kohnstamm, president of Cable Europe, said the frame of reference was false, that infrastructure is the key enabler of the Internet, and freedom was a function of competition: “Adam Smith and Charles Darwin are alive and well in the cable business” he said.
But this was merely a prelude to the ‘big gun’ of Michael Powell (pictured), CEO of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association who, after many invites, finally got to address the Congress. He was introduced – somewhat it seemed to his irritation – as, in addition to the NCTA CEO, the son of Colin Powell, four star general and former US Secretary of State.
This didn’t stop him bringing out military analogies: “In the US, the net neutrality event is like WWI – entrenched positions, tiny advances, soon lost.” He complained regulators – specifically with Title II – were fighting the last war rather than the current one.
But his real fire was reserved for the tech companies of the West Coast, the FANGS. He pointed out together they have a market cap of $2.8 trillion – the GDP of France, and yet enjoy a light regulatory touch. He listed: Privacy, User Addiction, Fake News and Personal Data Security and Cyber Security as major concerns for society all of which require more urgent regulatory focus than infrastructure providers.
He also said the sheer economic power of the FANGS – Amazon is the size of the next 15 national retailers put together – also meant the techs needed anti-trust regulation.