One Year Later, ISP Claims That Title II Would Demolish Broadband Investment Found To Be Total, Indisputable Bullshit
from the nostradamus-you-ain't dept
In late 2014, the Obama Administration and the FCC shocked everybody by announcing that the government would be uncharacteristically ignoring telecom lobbyists and reclassifying broadband service under Title II — ensuring it had adequate legal foundation for tougher net neutrality rules. As you might expect, the cable and phone companies immediately set to work with a blistering public relations barrage, with think tankers, editorials, industry consultants and thousands of industry mouthpieces all making one common refrain: Title II would utterly decimate broadband sector investment and crush innovation.
Ignore that the wireless industry had been classified under Title II for the majority of explosive growth years. Ignore as well that companies like Verizon had been classifying its FiOS fiber under Title II for mammoth tax breaks with no ill effect. No, according to companies like AT&T in 2014, Title II was absolutely certain to effectively usher in a telecom investment ice age that would leave the country reeling:
“Reclassification would mire the industry in years of uncertainty and litigation, and it would abruptly stall the virtuous circle of investment and innovation that has propelled the United States to the forefront of the broadband revolution.”
Comcast had its own similar predictions in 2014:
“The sheer uncertainty surrounding such a regulatory environment would produce ?a profoundly negative impact on capital investment.? By itself, reduced investment would inhibit job creation, hinder the deployment of broadband infrastructure, and undermine the ?virtuous circle? of innovation that the open Internet rules are designed to advance.”
But as the last year rolled on, people who could be bothered to actually read industry CAPEX numbers found that investment — much of it in Google Fiber markets — was as healthy as ever, if not better. Comcast announced plans to deploy two gigabit service to eighteen million homes, more recently unveiling plans for a major gigabit cable initiative in 2016. Time Warner Cable, Comcast and AT&T all spent much of the year crowing about notable speed upgrades and improvements, from expanded gigabit fiber pushes to housing developments, to notable DOCSIS 3.1 cable and set top box upgrades.
Closing on one year after the FCC voted to enact Title II, Kate Cox at the Consumerist did an amazing job digging through the absolute mountain of misleading claims made by AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Verizon and Charter, and comparing them to the companies’ recent earnings statements and CAPEX numbers. In nearly every case, claims of the investment apocalypse were found to be utter and undeniable bullshit, with the companies repeatedly indicating that Title II didn’t impact company plans in the slightest:
“By and large, the half-dozen companies representing the overwhelming majority of cable Internet and wireless broadband customers in the country, are continuing to invest. But is that just puffed-up chest-thumping to cheer up investors? Those most directly impacted by broadband investment don?t seem terribly concerned. In January, Multichannel News reported that the suppliers who make the stuff that the telecoms spend their money on aren?t losing sleep about a decrease in investment.
Shocking, right? It’s almost as if think tankers, lobbyists, and other hired sockpuppets were just spouting nonsense to scare the government away from meaningful net neutrality protections. And when it became clear the data wasn’t going to support their predictions, industry think tankers (and Verizon lawyers turned FCC Commissioners) concocted misleading studies claiming sector CAPEX was dropping, and are still making the same claims even now. But as we previously noted in great detail, those studies used farmed statistics and cherry picked CAPEX windows to artfully paint a picture easily disproven by spending just five minutes with any major telecom earnings report.
Of course, the fact that these companies have been proven to be lying through their teeth won’t stop them from continuing their lawsuit against the FCC. If said lawsuit doesn’t demolish the rules, it’s entirely possible the elections will, since any Presidential victor could gut the existing FCC staff and the rules in one, fell swoop. Should that happen, the neutrality debate in the States will reset to zero, giving telecom industry disinformation artists ample opportunity to once again highlight how the broadband industry’s greatest innovation isn’t in broadband, but in bullshit.