Charter: Cable now free to invest in internet without 'regulatory overhang'

girl looking at sunset
The cable industry sees the sunsetting of Title II internet regulations as a significant win. (Pixabay)

After collectively spending billions of dollars on things like DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrades over the last few years, the cable industry marked the sunsetting of Title II internet regulations with a strange declaration.

Turns out that FCC deregulation has made it safe to invest in the internet again. 

“Without the regulatory overhang of these rules, businesses like ours will have the certainty they need to make infrastructure investments over the long-term, helping more people get online and enabling even faster broadband,” declared Charter Communications, in an afternoon policy blog post yesterday. 

“The restoration of the light-touch regulatory approach that formally took effect yesterday means that hundreds of smaller ISPs represented by ACA can move forward with confidence knowing they can now invest in their networks without fear of the government coming in and adopting new rules that would undermine those carefully planned private-market decisions,” said American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew Polka, in his own statement. 

Comcast, meanwhile, sought to assure the public that with the abolishment of rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization it fought so hard to overturn, consumer internet service would not change. 

“We still don’t and won’t block, throttle or discriminate against lawful content,” Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said. We’re still not creating fast lanes. We still don’t have plans to enter into any so-called paid prioritization agreements.”

Lobbying group the NCTA—which famously declared its industry under “relentless government assault” two years ago—tried to discredit what it described as inflammatory rhetoric from progressives and advocacy who fear for the loss of consumer protections. 

Don’t worry, the NCTA said, “whether governed by one set of rules or another, an open Internet with the core principals of net neutrality at its foundation is baked into the internet experience. 

“That is also why we are confident that despite a new round of outlandish claims and doomsday predictions from groups dedicated to stoking political controversy, consumers will be able to see for themselves that their internet service will keep working as always has and will keep getting better,” the group added. 

Is this a long-term win for the cable industry? Tough to say, because the regulatory winds could change again soon. And Congress doesn’t seem to have the will to take away the ability of the FCC to “roll forward” Title II again if elections change the political dynamic in Washington over the next few years. 

In fact, with polls revealing the unpopularity of the FCC’s December decision to roll back internet regulations adopted in 2015, the U.S. Senate voted across bipartisan lines last month to block the agency. But the House ignored the resolutions.

“By refusing to bring up the Senate-passed resolution to restore net neutrality, which passed the Senate by a powerful bipartisan vote, House Republican leaders gave a green light to the big ISPs to charge middle-class Americans, small business owners, schools, rural Americans, and communities of color more to use the internet,” said.Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement.