Cable lobbyists don’t want to be called cable lobbyists anymore. The nation’s top two cable industry lobby groups have both dropped the word “cable” from their names. But the lobby groups’ core mission—the fight against regulation of cable networks—remains unchanged.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) got things started in 2016 when it renamed itself NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, keeping the initialism but dropping the words it stood for.
The group was also known as the National Cable Television Association between 1968 and 2001.
The American Cable Association (ACA) is the nation’s other major cable lobby. While NCTA represents the biggest companies like Comcast and Charter, the ACA represents small and mid-size cable operators. Today, the ACA announced that it is now called America’s Communications Association or “ACA Connects,” though the ACA’s website still uses the americancable.org domain name.
“The new name reflects a leading position for the association in the fast-growing telecommunications industry, where technology is rapidly changing how information is provided to and used by consumers,” the cable lobby said.
“It’s all about the communications and connections our members provide,” said cable lobbyist Matthew Polka, who is CEO of the ACA.
The “ACA Connects” moniker “explains what our association and members really do,” Polka continued. “We connect, communicate, build relationships and work together with all, and that will never change.”
They’re still cable companies
What the ACA’s member cable companies really provide to customers hasn’t changed, though—their business is still selling access to broadband, TV, and phone service over cable networks. The group’s 700 member companies provide service to nearly 8 million cable subscribers.
Small cable companies often get higher praise from customers than the biggest ones and often serve rural areas or provide much-needed competition in cities and suburbs by going head to head against incumbents. But they’re still cable companies and are thus part of an industry that routinely gets horrible customer service ratings because of rising prices, billing mistakes, and broadband data caps that make it harder to ditch cable TV for online streaming.
The ACA has clashed with large cable companies over certain policy issues. For example, the ACA recently called on the Department of Justice to investigate whether Comcast uses its ownership of TV programming to harm competitors. But the ACA has also been in lockstep with large cable companies in opposing net neutrality rules, cable TV rate regulation, and broadband privacy rules.
The ACA once claimed that broadband competition is bad for customers, and it joined an industry attempt to stop state investigations into broadband providers’ misleading speed claims.
The ACA’s lobbying for the repeal of net neutrality rules included this pitch in 2017, which said that one ACA member company “suspended data caps, a key network management tool, because of the vagueness surrounding how the FCC might respond to complaints about data caps.”
In reality, the net neutrality rules did nothing to prohibit data caps, but they required ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. Complaints that net neutrality rules harmed small providers, despite being exaggerated, helped FCC Chairman Ajit Pai justify his repeal of the Obama-era rules.
Even without the word “cable” in its name, the ACA will continue the fight against regulation of cable networks. The ACA, NCTA, and other broadband lobby groups are currently litigating against California and Vermont to eliminate state net neutrality laws and have been filing court briefs to support the Pai FCC’s decision to preempt state and local regulation of broadband. The ACA claims that eliminating broadband regulation “will allow continued innovation and investment.”