Looming challenges may delay ‘net neutrality’ impact on Comcast

Listen
 (NewsWorks file photo)

(NewsWorks file photo)

Thursday’s FCC ruling on net neutrality could have a big impact on the entire telecom industry, including one of the region’s biggest employers, Comcast.

But local experts say, don’t expect the new FCC rules to affect Comcast right away – and don’t expect them to go unchallenged, either.

Comcast’s immediate prospects depend more on a proposed merger with Time Warner Cable than on any plans for the now-banned “Internet fast lanes,” said the University of Pennsylvania’s Christopher Yoo. But in the long run, Yoo said, Comcast’s ability to develop new services could be hindered by the new regulations.

“They have never been subject to telephone-style regulation before,” Yoo said. “They’re going to have to look at the ambiguities of the regulation and make a best-guess estimate about how they’re going to be applied to them.”

Yoo thinks the new rules could be tied up in court for some time to come.

“It’s impossible to know whether a future FCC under a different administration might change its mind the other way,” he said. “And, in fact, there’s a real question as to whether these rules will survive judicial review.”

At Temple University, Munir Mandviwalla of the Fox School of Business doesn’t share Yoo’s concern that regulation in this case will stifle innovation. He sees the FCC’s new rules as common-sense regulations for what is still a young industry. He hopes Comcast and its fellow telecoms don’t spend years trying to overturn them.

“For the overall growth of the industry, I think it’s better if we accept some ground rules, and work toward exceeding, innovating and finding competitive advantage within those rules,” Mandviwalla said.

Comcast’s stock dipped slightly after the FCC decision was announced Thursday. Comcast vice president David L. Cohen said the company supports an open Internet, but opposes these particular regulations.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.