NCTA, ACA Back Broadband Everywhere

Two cable-industry groups are helping to foot the bill for Broadband Everywhere, a new coalition led by former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) that will be lobbying against legislation that permits telcos to get national franchises to provide video services.

The group, unveiled Wednesday, will receive most of its financing from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, as well as some funding from the American Cable Association, a lobbying group for small, independent cable operators.

Broadband Everywhere’s members also include the Hispanic Federation, the National Congress of Black Women and more than one-dozen individual cable companies such as Cable One Inc., Bresnan Communications, Cebridge Connections, Atlantic Broadband, Buford Media Group, Sunflower Broadband and New Wave Communications.

During a teleconference, Molinari said Broadband Everywhere will fight against the proposed bill in the House, being prepared by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), that would not only permit telcos to receive national video franchises but would also include additional protections for them.

“We believe broadband deployment is critical to the nation’s future,” said Molinari, CEO of lobbying firm The Washington Group. “Too many of our rural areas, our seniors and our minority communities have insufficient access to the latest broadband technologies.”

She also stressed that the group is being totally upfront about the financial support it is receiving from the NCTA. Rob Stoddard, the trade group’s spokesman, said there are discussions taking place about exactly how much the NCTA will contribute to Broadband Everywhere.

“We will be a major and principal backer of the group,” Stoddard said. “The reason to do something like this is based on the fact that there are a broad number of groups and organizations and individuals that are of like mind on this issue. And we thought it made a lot of sense to bring people together under a banner or umbrella to carry the message to the extent even beyond cable-industry companies themselves.”

Molinari and Lillian Rodríguez-López, president of the Hispanic Federation, are the co-chairs of Broadband Everywhere, the mission of which includes promoting the broadest possible deployment of competitive broadband networks.

“We already have a severe digital divide,” Rodríguez-López said. “Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in this country, but our Internet use and our access to broadband is only one in every eight Hispanics.”

ACA president Matt Polka, who is on Broadband Everywhere’s board, said that if his small membership -- tiny cable companies -- can risk their own capital to provide services to small towns across the country, the huge telcos shouldn’t get special protection or be able to just cherry-pick the areas they serve.

“When you have the monster Bell companies, these behemoth companies, who say they can’t bring competitive broadband service and video service to rural and inner-city America unless they get special breaks from the government, a sweetheart deal, it incenses me, because I’m not sure, frankly, whether to laugh or scream,” Polka said during the conference call.

His members aren’t going to allow the phone companies “to bend and twist and pervert the rules of the road to favor their companies and to kill competition. We believe there should be no special break for the monster Bell companies, whose market cap eclipses that of every company in the cable industry,” Polka added.

During the teleconference, Molinari also said Broadband Everywhere is challenging other advocacy organizations to disclose their financial relationships, as well, referring to the so-called Astroturf anti-cable groups that are backed by phone companies.