One More Time With Feeling: Net Neutrality Didn't Hurt Broadband Investment In The Slightest
from the dollar-a-holler-science dept
You’ll recall that ISPs (and the lobbyists, think tanks, politicians, and consultants paid to love them) argued incessantly that if we passed net neutrality rules, investment in broadband infrastructure would grind to a halt, leaving us all weeping gently over our clogged tubes. ISPs like Verizon proudly proclaimed that net neutrality rules would “jeopardize our investment and the development of innovation in Broadband Internet and related services.” ISP-tied think tanks released study after statistically-massaged study claiming that net neutrality (and the reclassification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II) would be utterly catastrophic for the broadband industry and its consumers alike.
But as time wore on it became abundantly clear that these warnings were the empty prattle of a broken industry, using a thick veneer of bunk science to defend its monopoly over the uncompetitive broadband last mile.
Since net neutrality was passed there has been absolutely no evidence that a single one of these claims had anything even remotely resembling merit, with broadband expansion pushing forward at full speed, constrained only by the ongoing lack of competition in many markets. We’ve watched as outfits like Google Fiber continue to expand its footprint. We’ve watched as Verizon suddenly promised to deploy fiber to cities long neglected. We’ve watched as Comcast and AT&T rushed to try and keep pace with gigabit investments of their own. In short, nothing changed, and things may have even improved.
And now companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are doling out what could be as much as $86.4 billion in what may be the most expensive spectrum auction ever:
“The FCC?s forward auction headed into Round 8 on Monday with a total of more than $11.5 billion in bids, according to the auction dashboard. The figure was up from just $8.5 billion in auction proceeds from the first round of bidding last week. Demand appeared to be holding strong…Forward auction bidders are striving to hit an $86.4 billion price target set by broadcasters in the reverse auction. If demand does not reach supply, then a second reverse auction will be held with a lower clearing target of 90 MHz, the FCC has said.
You’d think that carriers tripping over themselves to pursue fifth-gen (5G) wireless alone would be enough to put onerous claims about the negative impact of net neutrality rules to bed. But you’d be wrong. Revolving door regulators like Verizon lawyer turned FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai have consistently tried to claim that net neutrality somehow stifled investment, we just apparently didn’t notice. Other sector chicken littles have turned to citing unrelated business downturns to try and obfuscate how full of crap the lion’s share of these organizations and consultants were on the subject of net neutrality.
Tech Freedom, for example, spent some time last week rewteeting claims that Cisco’s decision to lay off an estimated 5,500 employees was somehow thanks to net neutrality:
Except Cisco’s global layoffs have nothing to do with some relatively simple net neutrality rules passed in the States. Cisco is downsizing because of the rise in virtualization and the company’s shift from its hardware roots into a software-centric organization, something the company itself admits, and something you’d think an economist would understand. This conflation attempt isn’t unique. Industry-tied think tanker Hal Singer has done yeoman’s work the last year or two trying to claim networking investment is down despite all evidence pointing to the contrary.
Singer, whose study played the starring role in the industry’s manufactured denial, continued to beat the same drum beat on Twitter last week:
But as noted previously Singer’s 8% stat comes from his own study. A study repeatedly criticized for cherry-picking unrelated data to intentionally indicate a network investment downturn that doesn’t exist. In many instances he included companies whose CAPEX was dropping because they’d just finished major deployments (Charter’s finished deployment of new digital set top boxes, for example). Elsewhere, Singer and other think tankers have tried to claim that CAPEX reductions and cost savings due to the rise in software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) were actually caused by net neutrality.
Ironic, then, that Singer took to The Hill to pen an op-ed accusing the FCC of playing fast and loose with empirical evidence when it comes to efforts like net neutrality or cable box reform:
“It is simply irresponsible for regulators to rely on gut feelings ? or political pressure or public opinion polls. Rather they should be guided by empirical evidence, rigorous analysis of regulatory costs and benefits and basic economic principles taught on every college campus across the country together. What matters most is not the sheer number of docketed public comments or the enthusiasm of those blockading of the Chairman?s driveway, but instead a sober analysis of the need for regulation in light of proven market failures.”
Again, that’s an ISP-funded think tanker, freshly proven incredibly, repeatedly, and quite-possible intentionally wrong across numerous fronts, blasting the FCC for ignoring actual economic data. Gosh, it’s almost as if these folks are paid to be as intellectually rigid as possible, utterly immune to any attempts at honest discourse when presented with conflicting evidence. Do you get to give people lectures on economics and integrity when your bunk studies are used repeatedly to smear net neutrality rules designed to aid consumers, startups and small businesses nationwide? Apparently.
In short, ISPs and their “dollar-a-holler” think tankers used crap science and economics to intentionally mislead the public on net neutrality, but their predictions have been proven repeatedly and painfully wrong. But instead of acknowledging error and moving on to the next misleading argument, they’ve decided to double down and promote a broadband investment cataclysm that never actually happened.