Global regulators urged to examine the scale and power of US technology giants
Dublin, 6 March 2018
Cable Congress 2018 opened in Dublin on Tuesday 6 March with industry leaders from both sides of the Atlantic calling for regulatory action to police US technology giants and recognise the crucial role that network infrastructure plays in allowing consumers to access new services and products.
Michael Powell, President and CEO of NCTA – the Internet and Television Association, the trade body for the US cable industry, criticised the application of old telecoms laws to regulate the internet in America as being “about the wrong technology, based on wrong assumptions, and unable to function as applied to the internet.” Laws that apply exclusively to carriers and internet providers, and not to tech companies, were obsolete and “leave consumers little protection or recourse.”
Powell was giving the opening keynote address at Cable Congress 2018, and said that the big American technology companies are “staggering in their size and power – they have aggregated more power than any other market organisation in the world and have the influence of a nation state. But antitrust and consumer policy has not evolved.”
Powell called on the big four US tech giants to recognise that they have a responsibility to fix the negative implications of their products, as well as for regulators to pivot and focus collectively on issues such as privacy, data, fake news and the social harm that some products cause.
He set out five principles to guide a holistic regulatory framework:
- the reaffirmation of the interdependent nature of the internet ecosystem
- a commitment to promoting infrastructure growth
- policing of the big technology companies
- a reinvigoration and evolution of antitrust and competition policy as well as its fair application, and
- securing and protecting the internet from cyber threats.
Net neutrality debate is obsolete
Powell also criticised those who continue to focus on the net neutrality debate, which he sees as “increasingly irrelevant. No matter how it is resolved, it will have little real world impact.”
Manuel Kohnstamm, President of Cable Europe, described the concepts of net neutrality and the open internet as “obsolete in today’s complex digital ecosystem” in his opening remarks at the European Cable industry’s annual conference. He added that “innovation and disruption create far more value and consumer benefit than any regulation can ever do.”
Kohnstamm challenged Cable Europe’s members to be the key enabler for the digital society. He stressed that many of the issues to be discussed at Cable Congress, such as smart cities, 5G, e-health, connected cars, augmented reality and virtual telepresence, all rely on high capacity networks, which only cable providers are in a position to provide.
Cable providers focused on delivering superfast broadband
At a CEO panel moderated by journalist Kate Bulkley later in the morning, cable operators agreed. Manuel Cubero, Chief Commercial Officer of Vodafone Germany, defined the core cable proposition as “a strong network, excellent customer care, attractive offers, brand communications and good products.” Others stressed the inbuilt advantages that cable has in the transition to the gigabit society. Timm Degenhardt, CEO of Tele Columbus AG, said that broadband speed, and delivering on customers’ expectations, remains crucial, but that only cable operators can increase bandwidth efficiently. Tony Hanway, CEO of Virgin Media Ireland, agreed that “there is an insatiable demand for superfast broadband,” and said that Virgin Media had been aggressively building out the network in Ireland over the past two years to take advantage of recent economic growth and consumer trends.
Cable sector in Europe continues growth
Earlier in the morning, Cable Europe released the annual statistics showing the health of the cable industry, compiled by IHS Markit. Despite the challenges of a changing industry, cable has shown consistent growth over the last decade, and in 2017 revenues were up 2.4%, whilst the total number of internet, TV and telephony subscriptions reached 121.4 million across Europe.
- Manuel Kohnstamm’s full opening address at Cable Congress 2018 is available here
- Cable Europe’s 2017 industry statistics are available here and a summary news release is available here
About Cable Congress and Cable Europe
Cable Congress 2018 is taking place in Dublin on 6th and 7th of March. Please visit www.cablecongress.com for the latest updates, talk to us on Twitter via @CableEurope, and follow the conversation live using #cablecongress.
Cable Europe is the trade association that connects leading broadband cable TV operators and their national trade associations throughout the European Union. The regulatory and public policy activities of Cable Europe aim to promote and defend the industry’s policies and business interests at European and international level. The European cable industry provides high speed broadband internet, TV services, and telephony to more than 65.1 million homes in the European Union. www.cable-europe.eu
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