With a renewed push to reclassify ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, the cable industry has ramped up its public relations blitz to convince you that Title II reclassification is the single scariest proposal in the history of the world. Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin points us to a new ad funded by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association that is just about the least convincing argument against Title II reclassification that we can imagine.
As you can see, the NCTA wants you to think that enforcing net neutrality via Title II means that your cable bills will skyrocket. In reality, of course, cable prices have been skyrocketing well beyond the rate of inflation even without Title II restrictions.
A major study from the Federal Communications Commission has found that basic cable prices increased by 6.5% throughout 2012 while expanded basic cable prices rose by 5.1% over the same period. In contrast, the general rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index throughout 2012 was just 1.6%, meaning that basic cable prices rose at more than four times the rate of inflation in 2012 while expanded basic cable prices rose by more than three times the rate of inflation.
The FCC also found that cable prices have been growing much more quickly than inflation for a very long time now, as the compound average annual rate for expanded basic cable services between 1995 and 2013 was 6.1% while the compound average annual growth rate for the CPI over that same period was 2.4%.
And it’s not as though things are going to get better in this regard anytime soon — Comcast exec David Cohen actually admitted that he is “not promising that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly” if his company is allowed to merge with Time Warner Cable.
So really, the argument that your cable bills will go up if the FCC reclassifies ISPs is wholly unconvincing since cable companies seem so intent on raising our bills even without any government intrusion. Perhaps the industry’s claims would have more weight if its two largest companies weren’t also the two most hated companies in America, but Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s reputations are so terrible that more Americans might actually trust the government more than them.
That’s a hard feat to accomplish but I think Comcast and TWC have incredibly pulled it off.