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Comcast wants to get its Time Warner merger approved. But it also wants to avoid new ISP regulations that will make things harder for them. This means they have to play things very carefully. They certainly have to make it look like they support net neutrality. Otherwise, their push to prevent more broadband regulation may get in the way of the important business merger.
Comcast’s Support Net Neutrality PR Campaign
We all know that Comcast can’t really support net neutrality. Fair treatment for traffic will prevent them from reaching the full potential for profit. Comcast is one of the largest broadband Internet providers in the United States. As such, they stand to make the biggest profits from offering Internet fast lanes. So they have to get past all this to prove to regulators that they deserve their merger. And they need to reverse public opinion so they can lobby to prevent further regulation of broadband providers like themselves.
Part of Comcast’s PR campaign is getting the word out to everyone that they are following the full set of regulations to support net neutrality. It claims that it is the only ISP that does this. The campaign wants to make people believe that they have really made a commitment to support net neutrality. But the advertisements leave a lot out. It can be convincing to those who do not fully understand what it means to support net neutrality.
What is Comcast Hiding?
A Comcast ad referring to net neutrality protection surfaced last week. It seems to say that both a commitment to support net neutrality and a merger with Time Warner will make the online experience better. This is not bad. But the ad also seems to say that the merger will also boost the protection that we get from net neutrality. A staff member of Congress noticed the ad and sent it to Vice Magazine. Comments about the absurdity of Comcast’s net neutrality claims quickly came out in an article. The article also points out how Comcast has persistently combated net neutrality. The ad campaign, the article concludes, is an elaborate deception. There are no definitions provided, and Comcast’s evasive style is confirmed by a longer ad that was printed in the latest Washington Post Sunday edition. Comcast talks about extending net neutrality protection to millions of users and preserving an open Internet through their merger with Time Warner. But what net neutrality protection and open Internet means to Comcast is never clarified.
Comcast seems to hope that people will latch on to the phrase “full net neutrality” and assume this is a good thing for them. Comcast does support net neutrality regulations as they were set don in 2010. But they are only legally obligated to do so until 2018. Comcast is not telling us what they plan to do after their legal commitment expires. And if they succeed in wooing regulators, there may be no new net neutrality regulations for them to follow after they are granted permission to proceed with their merger.
Comcast may be using a new and looser definition of net neutrality. The FCC has been deliberating over net neutrality or a long time. There are many proposals, one of which may prohibit website blocks but allow fast lanes. This proposal would greatly benefit large broadband providers like Comcast. But many do not see fast lanes going hand in hand with an open Internet.