Comcast’s Cohen: Broadband capex has declined by $3.6B under Title II

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Capital expenditures by U.S. internet service providers have declined by $3.6 billion since the FCC adopted its Title II regime for internet regulation in 2015, Comcast regulatory chief David L. Cohen said.

Cohen’s Monday blog posting—and the associated comments made to the FCC—continued Comcast’s push to get the now-Republican-led agency to reverse its regulations. The capex figure was quoted from economist Hal Singer, who said the top 12 ISPs invested 5.6% less in 2016 vs. 2014, before Title II was enacted. 

“A CTIA study found that capital expenditures declined for wireless providers by 17.4% from 2015-2016,” Cohen added. “A study by Dr. George S. Ford found that the threat of Title II regulation between 2011 and 2015 reduced broadband investment by about 20% to 30%, or about $30 to $40 billion annually. That reduction amounts to "about $150-$200 billion over the five-year period," or the equivalent of losing an entire year’s worth of investment.

Those who say investment isn’t impacted by the Title II regime “aren’t living in the real world,” Cohen also said. 

RELATED: Comcast, Charter, NCTA hijack ‘Net Neutrality Day’ to hammer anti-Title II messaging

In contrast, Cohen included a chart in his post that showed steep growth for most major ISP metrics during the period of 2005-2015, when “light-touch” regulation of the internet was in place. According to the data, which Cohen didn’t source, capex by U.S. ISPs during that period rose from $62 billion to $76 billion; fixed and mobile internet connections grew from 50.2 million to 355.2 billion; and the percentage of homes with internet speeds of 25 Mbps or greater rose from nil to 53.5%.

No. 2 U.S. cable operator, Charter Communications, struck a similar tone in its comments to the FCC. 

“We support the FCC returning internet access to the light-touch regulatory framework in place for more than two decades that kept up with the speed of innovation,” a Charter statement read. “Title II, written for the monopoly phone service in the 1930's, is simply not designed to foster 21st century broadband innovation and deployment. Charter stands ready to work with the FCC and Congress on a bipartisan basis to preserve an open internet and spur broadband deployment for more Americans for decades to come.”

Added American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew Polka: ”Without question, the FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai is headed in the right direction and needs to end the unnecessary and burdensome utility-style Title II regulation of the Internet imposed by the 2015 Open Internet Order. The FCC should reinstate a light-touch regulatory approach that will reverse the decline in broadband infrastructure investment, innovation and options for consumers the FCC's misguided 2015 Order set in motion.”

NCTA joined in with its own statement: “The comments reaffirm NCTA’s longstanding commitment to core open internet principles that ensure that all consumers can enjoy free and unimpeded access to the lawful internet content of their choosing. Those core principles, which have evolved from the four internet freedoms first articulated by then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell in 2004, ensure transparency, no blocking, no throttling, and no anticompetitive paid prioritization—all of which have been consistently embraced and adhered to by NCTA and its members regardless of the governing regulatory framework.”