FCC Chairman Cites AT&T, TWC Broadband Plans to Counter Net Neutrality Investment Predictions

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The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Friday said predictions that network investment will suffer under Title II Internet regulations have been refuted by the statements of big telecom providers including Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as a number of recent announcements to expand broadband service.

Speaking at The Brookings Institution just two weeks after a federal court refused to put on hold Title II regulation, Tom Wheeler cited “a disconnect between what is said in Washington advocacy and what happens in the market.”

“The CEOs of Sprint, T-Mobile, Cablevision, Charter, and Frontier have all publically said Title II regulation does not discourage their investment,” Wheeler said. “Recent transactions, both announced and rumored, point to the same conclusion. And, of course, the post-Open Internet announcements by AT&T, Bright House, CenturyLink, Cincinnati Bell, Comcast, Cox Cable, TDS Telecom, and Time Warner Cable about their plans to expand their broadband service certainly speak for themselves.”

Wheeler reiterated previous statements that his agency didn’t intend to regulate Internet service like the telecom monopolies of old. He said the FCC would not regulate rates, require unbundling of networks or impose tariffs.

“In short,” Wheeler added, “no utility-style regulation.”

Cable and telecom interests – including the well-backed USTelecom (United States Telecom Association), whose board of directors includes representatives from AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon – disagree. USTelecom and others are continuing to challenge the FCC’s Net neutrality regulations in federal court.

“To shift course backward to yesterday’s telephone regulation not only makes little sense,” USTelecom President and CEO Walter McCormick Jr. said earlier this month, “it isn’t legally sound.”

While the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., recently denied requests for a stay of Title II regulation, the court ordered expedited briefing to move the case along.

The Internet regulations – including prohibitions on blocking, throttling or paid prioritization of Web traffic – took effect on June 12. Although USTelecom opposes Title II regulation, it expressed support for the bright-line regulations above.

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