Altice Promises Massive New Fiber Network, Again Proving Net Neutrality Didn't Stifle Broadband Investment
from the if-you-build-it-they-will-come dept
You might recall that during the fight over net neutrality rules, giant legacy ISPs (and the armies of think tankers, lobbyists and consultants paid to support their often flimsy arguments) repeatedly insisted that if net neutrality rules were passed, tubes would clog, innovation would die, and investment in broadband networks would shrivel up completely. There was no subtlety to these claims; ISP-loyal politicians and hired economists time and time again breathlessly insisted that net neutrality would be a disaster because nobody would be willing to keep building broadband networks.
In the year plus since the rules were passed, we’ve noted repeatedly how the ISPs’ own earnings reports indicate this was never really true. Investment (at least in more competitive) areas has clicked along happily, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single major ISP that has refused to upgrade its network because of “regulatory uncertainty” surrounding the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Granted, there are still major market problems caused by cable’s growing monopoly in the wake of telcos leaving the rural broadband market, but these problems have absolutely nothing to do with net neutrality.
In fact, in some areas, we’re seeing more investment than ever. Wireless providers certainly aren’t restricting their spending as they buy spectrum and prepare to deploy massive fifth generation (5G) wireless networks. French ISP Altice has also been spending billions to gobble up ISPs here in the US (Cablevision, Suddenlink), and last week it issued a surprise announcement indicating that it planned to bypass less expensive DOCSIS 3.1 cable broadband upgrades — and instead deploy fiber to the home service to the lion’s share of the company’s new American footprint:
“The company?s five-year deployment schedule will begin in 2017, and the company expects to reach all of its Optimum footprint and most of its Suddenlink footprint during that timeframe. Initial rollout markets will be announced in the coming months. In addition to delivering a superior customer experience for the long term, the new architecture will result in a more efficient and robust network with a significant reduction in energy consumption. Altice expects to reinvest efficiency savings to support the buildout without a material change in its overall capital budget.”
So again, if net neutrality had made the US broadband regulatory environment so damn unpalatable, why would a French ISP be investing billions to upgrade its network to fiber to the home? Why would Comcast be happily deploying gigabit broadband across its entire footprint? Why would Verizon be promising to deploy FiOS to Boston? Why would Google and Facebook be investing in all manner of alternate broadband delivery ranging from millimeter wireless to drone?
Because the ISPs and their loyal PR foot soldiers were lying through their teeth about net neutrality’s impact on broadband investment. Granted this may all be a moot point thanks to an incoming Trump-controlled FCC that wants to gut net neutrality rules entirely, but these distortions and falsehoods are worth remembering the next time we inevitably find ourselves back here once again trying to defend basic rules of a fair and open internet.