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The Cable Industry's Anti-Net Neutrality Ads Are All Scare Tactics, No Substance

Saying that rules written in the 1930s aren't fit for technology today isn't saying anything at all.
September 6, 2014, 6:00pm
Image: NCTA

It's no secret the cable industry hates the idea of reclassifying the internet as a utility, a favored option for those who want to preserve net neutrality. In a bid to make you hate the idea, too, the industry has taken out a series of print and online banner ads that try to paint the idea as old fashioned and one that the government is poised to screw up.

The ads are showing up on sites like Politico, and are set to show up in print at some point, too, according to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

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We've seen this before, of course. Earlier this year, we posted images of postcards that Comcast and AT&T sent to people who were set to vote on whether or not to build a municipal fiber network to compete with the internet service providers. What's surprising here is that the same scare tactic that worked a decade ago might work again.

Here are the three ads the NCTA is running:

The NCTA's ads (and the website where they redirect to) are notable simply because they feature lots of promises and threats with little in the way of actual facts. Take this, for instance:

Nowhere on the site (at least not that I can tell) does anyone from the NCTA (which represents most of the largest ISPs) explain how, exactly, classifying the internet as a common carrier would lead to those dire predictions. "Because we say so" is not an answer, and graphs that massage the numbers or that tout the absolute highest speeds someone, somewhere in the United States can get miss the point of the problem.

"The goal of our ads is to issue a reality check about what public utility regulation of the Internet really means for consumers and the Internet's future, highlighting how rules written in the 1930s are completely ill suited for today's modern broadband networks," Brian Dietz, a spokesperson for the NCTA, told me in an email. "The phrase 'net neutrality' has been twisted in so many different directions that its important to highlight what the true impact of treating the Internet like a public utility will mean."

But, like I said, simply saying that rules written in the 1930s aren't fit for technology today doesn't do that. Blindly throwing out outcomes, and doing it in such a way that underestimates your customers' intelligence, without offering up any sort of evidence or support is weak. And, as we've seen before, it's sadly typical.