As the FCC continues its murky — and occasionally confounding — Business Data Services (BDS) process, seven economists have penned a letter to the Commission arguing that any imposed rate regulation on what is a truly competitive market would be a mistake and counterproductive. From said letter:
As commenters across the spectrum rightly acknowledge, the rationale for ex ante rate regulation hinges entirely on protecting customers from a dominant provider’s abuse of market power; in turn, there is no plausible argument for regulation BDS providers that lack market power. No party has suggested — let alone demonstrated — that competitive BDS providers exercise significant market power. Moreover, some of the undersigned economists have examined marketplace data regarding the current state of BDS competition and have found that such data do not support claims that incumbent LECs exercise market power broadly in the provision of BDS.
Translation: The BDS market is competitive and there is no need for across the board price regulation. Again, from the letter:
To the degree there are some BDS markets with persistent monopoly power, we agree that it could be economically justified and welfare enhancing to reduce monopoly rents in such markets to a best approximation of competitive levels, to the extent such a goal can be achieved without imposing large costs on providers and disincentivizing investment. The Commission should limit any such regulation to markets characterized by monopoly power that are unlikely to become effectively competitive in the near future. To that end, the Commission should regulate BDS rates for legacy services only in geographic BDS markets where only a single facilities-based provider is present or nearby.
Translation: If regulation is necessary, it should be implemented using a scalpel, not a hacksaw.
To read the full letter from the economists to the FCC, click here.
Over at tech site Recode, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons and former Co-Chairman Larry Irving have penned an op-ed on virtual reality and the need for regulators to encourage private investment in the infrastructure that supports it. An excerpt:
The future of virtual reality is bright. Investors are bullish, users are excited to consume novel entertainment and educational applications, and engineers are developing new products. While innovators create exciting hardware and content, a VR future is only possible if policymakers make the right decisions today. Virtual reality will require new and upgraded broadband networks, both wired and wireless, that will be capable of satisfying future bandwidth needs of the technology, which consumes massive amounts of data.
Policymakers need to make more spectrum available, too. People are using their iPhones and Android phones for the early versions of VR, but today’s tools will not be adequate for a fully immersive, high-definition virtual reality future. Whether it is 4K, 5K, high-definition or ultra-high definition, each next-generation technology will require retrofitting our infrastructure. It’s time to rethink, rebuild and reinvest.
Tomorrow is the 40-year anniversary of the Internet Age. On August 27, 1976, scientists from SRI International successfully sent an electronic message from a computer set up at a picnic table at a Portola Valley, California biker bar, to SRI and on through the ARPANET network to Boston.
While the U.S. has seen nearly 40 years of pro-growth internet policy, the Federal Communications Commission in 2015, unfortunately, went from promoting internet investment and innovation through an open, multi-stakeholder platform to making the internet a government utility weighed down by Title II regulation. Check out the infographic below to see the FCC’s abrupt about-face.
U.S. Broadband and ICT Sector Adds More than $1 Trillion in Annual Value for the American Economy under Light-Touch Regulation
Report authors Hassett and Shapiro argue that the broadband/ICT sector has grown dramatically under light regulation, and increased regulation could slow Internet ecosystem investment and impair other sectors that depend on broadband/ICT technologies
For the past decade, the broadband and information and communications technologies (ICT) sector has fueled enormous growth and development in the American economy, according to a new 20-page report from the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) that analyzes broad trends in the economic value, output, and employment in this key sector. The study concludes that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) effort to impose Title II regulation on broadband providers could “adversely affect broadband/ICT sector investment, with potentially significant secondary costs for the other industries that depend on it and the overall American economy,” the study states.
Authored by Kevin A. Hassett and Robert J. Shapiro, “The Impact of Broadband and Related Information and Communications Technologies on the American Economy” highlights how steady demand for the broadband/ICT sector’s goods and services has helped spur U.S. employment and GDP growth over the past decade. Principal findings of the research include:
• In 2014, the U.S. broadband/ICT sector produced $1,019.2 billion in value added for the American economy, equal to 5.9 percent of U.S. GDP of $17,420.7 billion in 2014. “This substantial share of all U.S. economic value added has been roughly stable for the past decade and likely understates the sector’s full contribution by undervaluing technological improvements,” the paper explains.
• The use of U.S. broadband/ICT goods and services by U.S. private industries, and the information sector (and government), contributed an additional $692.0 billion in output in 2014, equal to 2.7 percent of their combined output and 4.0 percent of GDP. Including the government sector, the use of U.S. broadband/ICT goods and services by other industries and sectors contributed $843.3 billion in output in 2014, equal to 2.9 percent of their combined output and 4.8 percent of GDP.
• The companies that comprise the broadband/ICT sector employed 4,933,000 workers (full-time equivalents or FTE) in 2014, or 4.2 percent of all U.S. private employment and 3.5 percent of all non-farm employment. Demand by the broadband/ICT sector for goods and services produced by other industries was responsible for an additional 2,784,683 jobs (FTE) in 2014. All told, the broadband/ICT sector was responsible for 7,717,683 jobs (FTE) in 2014, or 6.4 percent of all U.S. private employment and 5.5 percent of all non-farm employment.
• The average compensation of broadband/ICT sector workers in 2014 was $104,390, 59.3 percent greater than the average compensation earned by other U.S. workers ($65,517).
“The large economic gains associated with the broadband and ICT sector have flourished in an environment of light federal regulation,” commented Hassett and Shapiro. “The FCC’s proposed regulation of broadband ISPs and their service offerings would stifle broadband/ICT sector investment, growth and employment, negatively impacting the American economy.”
“Today, high-speed Internet is the backbone for 21st century economic growth in the digital economy,” said Rick Boucher, a former Democratic congressman who chaired the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet and now serves as honorary chairman of the IIA. “Unnecessary price regulation in competitive broadband markets will have far-reaching negative impacts on U.S. economic growth and development. Without ample investment in modern networks, consumers and the entire broadband ecosystem – from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to edge providers – will suffer from reduced innovation and fewer cutting edge broadband services, as well as reduced jobs and economic growth in the nation’s Internet economy.”
In 1973, the Edgar Winter Group scored a Top 20 hit with “Free Ride.” In 2016, Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) are trying to score a free ride from the FCC via heavy regulation of special access rates.
While the CLECs like to claim there is a monopoly in the business broadband market, investment numbers say otherwise. Hundreds of billions are being invested in broadband networks, and all that money is not coming from CLECs. No wonder they want the FCC to impose heavy regulations on special access. The CLEC business model is to rely on the regulatory hammer to give them access to networks others have built, and as networks across the nation are upgraded to run on all-IP — and businesses require ever-faster broadband — the CLECs are quickly finding their business model is on thin ice — with spring around the corner.
Still, they continue to bend the FCC’s ear, which is why I continue to write about special access. It’s also why the organization US Telecom has launched a new initiative called “Innovate With Us” to remind policymakers that the broadband market in America is thriving across the board, and in order to keep the good times — and investment dollars — rolling, sensible regulations need to be in place. Or, as US Telecom succinctly put it in the intro to the initiative:
[T]he FCC should champion pro-investment policies that work for business customers, not specific companies, and look beyond yesterday’s technologies toward the networks of the future.
“Competition” is one of those words that make policymakers tingle. And yet, time and time again, private industry finds itself wrestling with regulations that not only harm competition but — in the most extreme cases — actively benefit one party over another.
Case in point: wireline broadband competition. Providers have invested billions to expand the reach and speed of their networks, and yet recent actions taken by the FCC are threatening to stifle ongoing investment. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out this latest study from the American Consumer Institute titled “Concentration by Regulation: How the FCC’s Imposition of Asymmetric Regulations Are Hindering Wireline Broadband Competition in America.”
Yes, that title is quite the mouthful (as most study titles are), and to be honest, unless you’re someone who enjoys diving into studies (with charts) on regulations, investment, and the economy, you might find the report’s 18 pages a bit of a slog. But those of us who do read through ACI’s study will find a convincing — and rather damning — case that the FCC is mistepping rather badly as it continues to amass more and more power over broadband. For example, here’s what the report has to say about one of the biggest regulatory marks the Commission made in 2015:
Title II regulations are preserving and maintaining duplicative and costly copper networks. That cost is an impediment to fiber deployment that keeps ILECs more reliant on older copper-based DSL technologies. Instead of the FCC relieving non-dominant ILECs of Title II regulations in more competitive markets, the FCC has recently chosen to make broadband service providers subject to Title II regulations.
Unless there is action soon, the shift in concentration is likely to be permanent. A decade ago, the rollback of asymmetric regulations permitted modest rebound in broadband services for ILECs, because there was brisk growth in subscribers. Today, because the broadband market is so widespread, growing slower and more mature, asymmetric broadband regulation will likely have longer term consequences that could permanently displace and weaken wireline competition. Even if a rebound is possible, ILECs will face a major cost to win back customers. Regulations are costly and delays in lifting these regulations will be even more costly.
Translation: Old regulations that effect some providers and not others are forcing companies like Verizon and AT&T to invest billions in the copper networks of old. Meanwhile, other providers don’t face such regulatory roadblocks, even as they aim to invest in the very same thing legacy providers are investing in — fiber-backed, high-speed broadband networks. Not exactly the spirit of competition, is it?
The ACI study isn’t all doom and gloom for America’s communications infrastructure, though, for the group has thoughtfully included a three bullet points that can help level the playing field:
• Policymakers need to end Title II regulations for all providers.
• There needs to be less emphasis on regulation of wholesale services. Less regulation will encourage more facility-based investments, which will lead to the natural development of a healthy, wholesale market; and
• If regulators truly believe that some regulation of wholesale services is necessary – and that may be the case in some rural markets – then regulators need to apply these regulations on a symmetrical and competitively neutral basis.
In short, get rid of the bad regulations, be careful when imposing new ones, and make sure everyone is playing under the same rules. Wise words, but the question is: Will the FCC listen?
• 67% of Americans have broadband at home, which is actually down from the 70% reported in 2013.
• 15% of Americans now describe themselves as “cord cutters,” relying on broadband for television rather than cable/satellite.
• 13% of Americans are smartphone-only, meaning they rely on a mobile device for Internet access.
One other finding from the Pew report, one that shows the value of encouraging investment in broadband networks: 69% of Americans believe not having broadband is a “major disadvantage.” That number is 13% higher than in 2010.
In today’s installments, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman continues to focus on Special Access and regulations. Here he talks about what the U.S. can learn from a decade of empirical data collected by the European Union on wholesale access regulation.
Rounding out the discussion, Mehlman talks about the likely impacts of the FCC requiring that IP services replacing copper be offered to CLECs at wholesale rates.
Recently, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman talked with Amir Nasr of the Morning Consult about the problems with the FCC’s pricing rules for high-grade network lines. An excerpt:
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the rule “preserves competitive choices as the technology transitions move forward… Competitive providers rely on these inputs to serve hundreds of thousands of businesses and other enterprise customers at competitive rates, often offering customized services not offered by incumbents.”
Mehlman said some in the industry are frustrated at the FCC’s apparent shift in thinking after the agency left the matter alone for over a decade. “They promised no regulation for over 10 years, and now they’re proposing to fundamentally change the game,” he said.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican and outspoken adversary to the agency’s Democractic majority, decried the pricing proposal in a recent speech at the center-right American Enterprise Institute. “These regulatory roadblocks are bad for consumers, bad for infrastructure investment, and bad for our nation’s economic competitiveness,” he said.
Mehlman concurred. “As long as you have regulations on some providers, forcing them to help their competitors at regulated rates, you will have less investment because there is a meaningfully lower return,” he said.
A recent Georgetown University Study by Kevin Hassett and Robert Shapiro confirms that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to subject Internet Service Providers (“ISPs) to “Title II” public utility regulation will “have significant adverse effects on future investment in the Internet.”
The study highlights how new regulation can have a “destructive, negative effect” if capital investment is delayed as a result of the need to resolve new market uncertainty. It notes how the history of FCC regulation of Internet companies has been surprisingly uniform and consistent. Whether under a Democratic or Republican Administration, the historical arc of broadband regulation gravitated toward a light-touch deregulatory approach that treated the Internet as an information service rather than a heavily-regulated telephone common carrier service.
Such treatment of broadband as an information service allowed the pace of Internet adoption to rapidly exceed that of the personal computer or dial-up Internet service. Technological advances and competition accelerated broadband uptake by lowering its “average, quality-adjusted price” that further accelerated its uptake. By contrast, studies have detailed how common carrier regulation inhibited competition for consumers and businesses, and discouraged and slowed innovation in telephone service.
Consumers now, however, bear the risks of the FCC’s decision to reverse course and impose new regulations on ISPs that today provide much of the Internet’s infrastructure and content. Such regulation could ultimately result in increased costs and price for Internet service beyond new universal service fees. Moreover, the Georgetown study notes how the regulatory path toward Title II may result in reduced efficiency of key network arrangements that depend on the Internet platform. Reduced efficiency could have the long-term negative effect of devaluing the investments made in those platforms or based on them and thus trigger many in the Internet ecosystem to minimize the costs of regulation rather than maximize efficient operations.
In addition, the study identifies scholarship that quantifies the negative potential impact of telecommunications regulation on broadband investment. For example, the ban on “paid priority” arrangements could affect telemedicine applications and cost the economy $100 million per year by 2019. More generally, Title II regulation of ISPs could reduce their “future wireline investments by between 17.8 percent and 31.7 percent per year, and their future total wireline and wireless investments by between 12.8 percent and 20.8 percent per year.”
The study’s authors also raise helpful international comparisons to better understand the imminent consequences of Title II regulation on broadband investment. Specifically, they note the “large negative effects on investment” if our nation’s regulatory model were moved closer to the heavy-handed regulations that governed Europe’s communications landscape in the first decade of the 21st century.
Finally, the Georgetown study’s most sobering point is how the “negative effects of uncertainty” resulting from the FCC’s sudden policy shift and on-going litigation may actually understate the harm of reduced broadband investment.
In light of this additional evidence and the potential harm to broadband and consumers, the Internet Innovation Alliance again emphasizes its support for a bipartisan legislative solution to promote an Open Internet without overly burdensome Title II Common Carrier Regulations for 21st Century broadband.
This morning, we published a new report — authored by Fred B. Campbell, Jr. — on the effect Title II regulation on communications investment in Europe, and what it could mean for investment here in the United States. The full report is available here, and below is a recording of a teleconference call discussing the report.
In a letter to Members of Congress and the FCC, 60 companies — including IBM, Cisco, Intel, and others — have warned that reclassifying broadband under Title II will reduce investment and threaten the very health of the thriving Internet ecosystem. An excerpt:
Reversing course now by shifting to Title II means that instead of billions of broadband investment driving other sectors of the economy forward, any reduction in this spending will stifle growth across the entire economy.
This is not idle speculation or fear mongering. And as some have already warned, Title II is going to lead to a slowdown, if not a hold, in broadband build out, because if you don’t know that you can recover on your investment, you won’t make it. One study estimates that capital investment by certain broadband providers could be between $28.1 and $45.4 billion lower than expected over the next five years if wireline broadband reclassification occurs. If even half of the ISPs decide to pull back investment to this degree, the impact on the tech equipment sector will be immediate and severe, and the impact would be even greater if wireless broadband is reclassified.
The investment shortfall would then flow downstream, landing first and squarely on technology companies like ours, and then working its way through the economy overall. Just a few years removed from the worst recession in memory, that’s a risk no policymaker should accept, let alone promote.
You can read the letter, submitted by the Telecommunications Industry Association, here.
As the FCC continues to mull its path toward ensuring net neutrality, none other than the Progressive Policy Institute has published new research highlighting just how much damage Title II reclassification could mean for consumers. An excerpt:
Self-styled consumer advocates are pressuring federal regulators to “reclassify” access to the Internet as a public utility. If they get their way, U.S. consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for both residential fixed and wireless broadband services.
How deep? We have calculated that the average annual increase in state and local fees levied on U.S. wireline and wireless broadband subscribers will be $67 and $72, respectively. And the annual increase in federal fees per household will be roughly $17. When you add it all up, reclassification could add a whopping $17 billion in new user fees on top of the planned $1.5 billion extra to fund the E-Rate program. The higher fees would come on top of the adverse impact on consumers of less investment and slower innovation that would result from reclassification.
We can all agree that the Internet must continue to be open, but as the Title II debate shows, not everyone seems to understand just what reclassifying Internet service would mean. Hopefully, research from the likes of the Progressive Policy Institute will help bring everyone up to speed. You can check out their full report here.
“The Impact of Title II Regulation of Internet Providers On Their Capital Investments” is a 22-page study penned by economists Kevin A. Hassett and Robert J. Shapiro. It was submitted to the FCC as part of an ex part by the US Telecom Association. If you care about the future of the Internet, you need to add it to your reading list.
For the study, Hassett and Shapiro approached the question of Title II reclassification armed with numbers. Specifically, an alarming drop in projected private investment should the FCC choose to reclassify. As the economists write:
If the status quo continues, with data services unencumbered by Title II regulation, the several ISPs in our sample are expected to spend approximately $218.8 billion in new capital investments over the next five years in their wirelines and wireless networks. In contrast, under Title II regulation of all wireline data services, these ISPs’ wirelines and wireless capital investments over the next five years would drop an estimated range of $173.4 billion to $190.7 billion. Title II regulation of ISPs thus reduces these companies’ total investments by $28.1 billion to $45.4 billion (between 12.8 percent and 20.8 percent) over the next five years. Wireline investment by these firms would be 17.8 percent to 31.7 percent lower than expected.
That’s a lot of numbers with the word billion attached, but the main focus should really be on the percentages. You don’t have to be an economist to realize that a reduction of total investment dollars of 12.8 percent to 20.8 percent (and wireline investment dollars of 17.8 percent to 31.7 percent) would have a profound effect on America’s communications infrastructure. And by profound, I mean decidedly negative — not just for network expansion and upgrades, but for innovation across the Internet board.
The blow to innovation, Hassett and Shapiro argue, would be particularly hard on wireless networks. Again, from the study:
[T]he network managements practices which Title II regulation would potentially bar enable wireless investment and innovation, because wireless networks face serious capacity constraints. Thus, regulations that discourage or bar those practices raise the risk of introducing new products and applications: Without those practices, carriers would be less able to manage unpredictable changes in network demand associated with their introduction, and so maintain the quality of network services for all of its users.
In other words, the next big app or service could cripple wireless networks, and under Title II, providers would be hamstrung by regulations to solve the problem in a timely manner. Want to launch an innovative new streaming video app? Good luck gaining users when your app meets a road block of network congestion.
Too often the debate surrounding net neutrality is one of extremes, and I freely admit the above scenario falls within that category. But also too often, the economic realities of building, upgrading, and maintaining networks are either ignored or downplayed. Net neutrality doesn’t have to be an emotional issue; we all benefit from the Internet continuing to be open. The question is, how best do we ensure that happens while at the same time encouraging the investment necessary to keep networks growing. As Hassett and Shapiro’s study makes clear, the numbers show Title II would do more damage than good.
Speaking of op-eds, our Co-Chairman Larry Irving — who served on the Clinton Administration’s technology teams — also had a piece published today. In it, he argues heavy-handed regulations could stifle the next big thing in broadband — gigabit networks:
This week, President Obama asked the FCC to reclassify consumer-based Internet service as a Title II service under the 1934 Communications Act, essentially equating to heavy regulation of broadband. As the Federal Communications Commission weighs options during its Open Internet proceeding, the question remains whether today’s policy makers will be successful in maintaining a regulatory and investment climate that will promote continued investment in and innovation of new broadband networks.
My hope is that the public officials in charge of this stage of Internet growth approach their roles with as much regulatory humility as we did, aiming to steer, not row, and remembering what Secretary Brown understood: Innovation is not inevitable. The regulatory choices they make will propel or forestall innovation.
Many proponents of “net neutrality” routinely declare the Internet sky is falling. That if the government — specifically, the Federal Communications Commission — doesn’t take far greater control of the Internet, then the very platform itself will all but collapse.
Such scare tactics may rile up Americans, but ironically, it’s the very solution proponents are now pushing that could deal the most devastating blow to the free and open Internet.
Title II reclassification may seem simple — just make the Internet a public utility! — but as a new paper from Anna-Maria Kovacs shows, reclassification would have far greater consequences for the Internet than its supporters let on.
Kovacs’ paper, “Regulations in Financial Translation: Investment Implications of the FCC’s Open Internet Proceeding,” is a dense 27-page read, but don’t let the length — or the dry academic title — deter you from digging in. In the paper, Kovacs takes the temperature of communication investors as the FCC continues to mull over reclassification. And while the majority of investors don’t expect the Commission to use the “nuclear option” of Title II, as it’s commonly known, that doesn’t mean they’re breathing easy. As Kovacs writes (all emphasis mine):
From the perspective of investors, Title II reclassification makes no sense. It does not solve the problem of paid prioritization that the vast majority of net neutrality advocates are demanding the FCC solve, but it carries the risk of enormous collateral damage to both infrastructure and edge providers. It would bring stultifying regulation that would choke the Internet ecosystem that has become on of the primary engines of economic growth for the U.S. and the world. It would encourage other governments to follow suit, endangering the success of American digital service — and application-providers abroad.
This stultifying regulation, Kovacs rightly argues, would be especially brutal to mobile broadband investment, where America leads the rest of the world by leaps and bounds. Kovacs again:
U.S. mobile Internet traffic is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 50% per year between 2013 and 2018. Keeping up with that traffic will require ongoing capital investments as well as additional spectrum. During 2014-2015, mobile broadband Internet access providers (mobile BIAs) are expected to raise about $57 billion for spectrum purchases, as indicated by the FCC’s reserve price for the 2014 AWS-3 auction and the Greenhill report’s valuation of the broadcast spectrum the FCC hopes to sell in early 2016. That $57 billion is, of course, in addition to the $68 billion in capital investments that mobile BIAs will spend over those two years. Thus, for the FCC’s spectrum auctions to be successful, mobile BIAs will need to raise 84% more funding during 2014-2015 that they do in normal years. With increased price competition and a shrinking revenue base — something the wireline industry has endured for years but that is new to wireless — these companies are facing an increasingly skeptical investment community that will have little tolerance for regulatory shock, on either the fixed or mobile side.
That’s a whole lot of numbers (and acronyms) to digest, but boiled down it means a) Providers need more spectrum; b) Billions will need to be raised to purchase that spectrum; c) Investment dollars could easily dry up in the face of regulatory actions like reclassifying under Title II.
Kovacs goes on in the paper to make the case that the FCC has sufficient authority to ensure the Internet remains open under section 706, which makes it possible for the Commission to create rules specifically for this purpose. While those rules would still face judicial review, they would also keep the FCC (which, remember, is made up of appointed officials) from overreach. In contrast, Kovacs points out, Title II…
...automatically invokes price regulation, resale and interconnection obligations, customer privacy rules, and numerous other obligations, which have been implemented via many thousands of regulations at the FCC and various state commissions.
Thousands of government regulations. Does that sound like a free and open Internet?
But what about forbearance, the provision with mythical powers that Title II proponents point to as a counterpoint to the excessive regulations argument? Well, Kovacs makes plain why the idea of the FCC using forbearance powers doesn’t sit well with investors:
While the FCC is allowed to forbear from some of those obligations if it can justify the forbearance to the courts, investors who have watched the attempts of ILECs to obtain forbearance are all too aware of the difficulties of that process. For example, investors have watched ILECs lose most of their market share yet still be treated by the FCC and state commissioners as if they were dominant carriers for PSTN voice service. As a result, they have little faith that the FCC would apply Title II to BIAs but then forbear from all the regulations that come with that.
Look, when it comes down to it, we all want the Internet to remain open. It’s in the best interest of consumers and providers to keep it that way. But we also need to keep investment dollars flowing into our communications infrastructure. As Kovacs’ paper shows, Title II won’t really do either. Instead, it could have the complete opposite effect. Want the Internet sky to fall? Saddle it with regulations created when Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office.
The Progressive Policy Institute has released its annual list of “Investment Heroes,” and at the top of the list are AT&T and Verizon, with estimated capital expenditures of more than $20 billion and $15 billion, respectively. That’s a lot of investment dollars, but as Hal Singer warns in Forbes, current regulations being considered by the FCC could severely hurt that investment going forward:
This week, PPI released its third annual report on “U.S. Investment Heroes,” authored by Diana Carew and Michael Mandel, which analyzes publicly available information to rank non-financial companies by their capital spending in the United States. Once again, AT&T and Verizon ranked first and second, respectively, with $21 and $15 billion in domestic investment in 2013. Comcast, Google, and Time Warner also made PPI’s top 25 list, each investing over $3 billion. The authors credit investment in the core of the network with sparking the rise of the “data-driven economy.”
In light of the results from prior experiments in rate regulation, the FCC should eschew calls to regulate ISPs under Title II. The incremental benefits (potentially barring fast lanes) are dubious, but the incremental costs (less investment at the core of the network) would be economically significant. Given its size and contribution to the U.S. economy in terms of jobs and productivity, even a small decline in core investment in response to rate regulation would impose social costs beyond the immediate harm to broadband consumers from an atrophying network.
That’s the amount of investment broadband providers have made in networks since 1996, according to a new report from the US Telecom association. Obviously, that’s a lot of investment, and as the paper shows, all those dollars have made a huge difference when it comes broadband access and speeds. Some highlights:
• Over 95% of Americans can access fixed broadband, with 88% having at least two providers to choose from.
• 99% of Americans have broadband at speeds 10 mbps or more available to them.
• 99% also have mobile broadband available, with 97% able to choose from at least three providers.
• Broadband investment jumped to 10% — from $69 billion in 2012 to $75 billion in 2013.
While those are some impressive numbers across the board, It’s not all rosy news from US Telecom. As the association notes in its press release:
Ongoing investment in all broadband networks, wireline and wireless, will be essential to accommodate the expected data traffic growth and enable the continued adoption of more powerful information and communications technologies and applications. Economically efficient investment in U.S. broadband infrastructure will pay off in the form of consumer welfare, business productivity, and global competitiveness. As noted in USTelecom’s blog on investment, a move to stricter Title II regulation could inject unnecessary uncertainty and negative pressures into the broadband investment equation. This poses risks to broadband investment, and also to the so-called “virtuous cycle” of innovation among broadband and related information technology industries.
Investment in broadband matters, which makes any move away from the “light regulatory touch” in place since 1996 all the more problematic. Can the FCC keep the Internet open without putting all this investment at risk? The Progressive Policy Institute thinks so. According to their recent paper, “The Best Path Forward on Net Neutrality,” they’re confident the FCC can achieve its goals by leaning on its Section 706 authority.
A new paper from Progressive Policy Institute Senior Fellow Hal Singer and Brookings Non-Resident Senior Fellow Robert Litan examines the effect Title II regulations could have on investment and the Internet ecosystem as a whole. An excerpt:
Imposing public-utility style regulation on Internet access would dampen innovation and investment in more, faster broadband. We propose the FCC implement the same case-by-case process to adjudicate discrimination complaints it has established for cable companies to broadband providers.
It’s not just investment from traditional ISPs that could be negatively effected, Singer and Litan also warn. Many companies that provide services on the Internet could also find themselves among those regulated under Title II:
Reclassifying Internet access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II, as supplemented by the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, opens up the possibility that other tech services meet the same test. The clearest example would be Google’s ultra-fast broadband service, Google Fiber, which the company is gradually rolling out. But it does not stop there. There is a very slippery slope from subjecting ISPs as common carriers to including other forms of Internet transmissions, because they arguably use “telecommunications services,” the legal hook in Title II for its application.
For example, why not then include within the ambit of a telecommunications service the linkage to an advertiser’s website that Google and Microsoft provide for users of their search engines? By clicking on links, the search engine uses the Internet backbone; if Internet access is a “telecommunications service,” because it provides “transmissions,” then so, too, are the search engines. The same logic potentially applies to Amazon’s Kindle book reader device and service, because its owners are able to download books from Amazon, but only because they are connected to a wireless provider of Internet access in the process. Indeed, what would stop the FCC from classifying as Title II common carriers all device makers that have a connection to an ISP?
It’s not all concern and dire warnings in Singer and Litan’s paper, however, as the duo argue the FCC should focus its efforts on something already within its power:
[W]e think the FCC should eschew the heavy-handed approach of Title II regulation, and lean instead on its Section 706 authority to regulate potential abuses by ISPs on a case-by-case basis. Investment across both edge and content providers will be greater compared to Title II, and the FCC can avoid any unintended consequences such as creeping regulation that encompasses content providers or other ISP services.
Last week, our Co-Chairman Larry Irving appeared on Government Matters to discuss Title II and the very real risks it could have on investment, innovation, and the entire Internet ecosystem. Check it out.
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As a condition of your use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site, you warrant to Internet Innovation Alliance that you will not use the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site for any purpose that is unlawful or prohibited by these terms, conditions, and notices. You may not use the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site in any manner which could damage, disable, overburden, or impair the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site or interfere with any other party’s use and enjoyment of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site. You may not obtain or attempt to obtain any materials or information through any means not intentionally made available or provided for through the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Sites.
USE OF COMMUNICATION SERVICES
The Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site may contain bulletin board services, chat areas, news groups, forums, communities, personal web pages, calendars, and/or other message or communication facilities designed to enable you to communicate with the public at large or with a group (collectively, “Communication Services”), you agree to use the Communication Services only to post, send and receive messages and material that are proper and related to the particular Communication Service. By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree that when using a Communication Service, you will not:
Defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the legal rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others.
Publish, post, upload, distribute or disseminate any inappropriate, profane, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent or unlawful topic, name, material or information.
Upload files that contain software or other material protected by intellectual property laws (or by rights of privacy of publicity) unless you own or control the rights thereto or have received all necessary consents.
Upload files that contain viruses, corrupted files, or any other similar software or programs that may damage the operation of another’s computer.
Advertise or offer to sell or buy any goods or services for any business purpose, unless such Communication Service specifically allows such messages.
Conduct or forward surveys, contests, pyramid schemes or chain letters.
Download any file posted by another user of a Communication Service that you know, or reasonably should know, cannot be legally distributed in such manner.
Falsify or delete any author attributions, legal or other proper notices or proprietary designations or labels of the origin or source of software or other material contained in a file that is uploaded.
Restrict or inhibit any other user from using and enjoying the Communication Services.
Violate any code of conduct or other guidelines which may be applicable for any particular Communication Service.
Harvest or otherwise collect information about others, including e-mail addresses, without their consent.
Violate any applicable laws or regulations.
Internet Innovation Alliance has no obligation to monitor the Communication Services. However, Internet Innovation Alliance reserves the right to review materials posted to a Communication Service and to remove any materials in its sole discretion. Internet Innovation Alliance reserves the right to terminate your access to any or all of the Communication Services at any time without notice for any reason whatsoever.
Internet Innovation Alliance reserves the right at all times to disclose any information as necessary to satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request, or to edit, refuse to post or to remove any information or materials, in whole or in part, in Internet Innovation Alliance’s sole discretion.
Always use caution when giving out any personally identifying information about yourself or your children in any Communication Service. Internet Innovation Alliance does not control or endorse the content, messages or information found in any Communication Service and, therefore, Internet Innovation Alliance specifically disclaims any liability with regard to the Communication Services and any actions resulting from your participation in any Communication Service. Managers and hosts are not authorized Internet Innovation Alliance spokespersons, and their views do not necessarily reflect those of Internet Innovation Alliance.
Materials uploaded to a Communication Service may be subject to posted limitations on usage, reproduction and/or dissemination. You are responsible for adhering to such limitations if you download the materials.
MATERIALS PROVIDED TO Internet Innovation Alliance OR POSTED AT ANY Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE
Internet Innovation Alliance does not claim ownership of the materials you provide to Internet Innovation Alliance (including feedback and suggestions) or post, upload, input or submit to any Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site or its associated services (collectively “Submissions”). However, by posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting your Submission you are granting Internet Innovation Alliance, its affiliated companies and necessary sublicensees permission to use your Submission in connection with the operation of their Internet businesses including, without limitation, the rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your Submission; and to publish your name in connection with your Submission.
No compensation will be paid with respect to the use of your Submission, as provided herein. Internet Innovation Alliance is under no obligation to post or use any Submission you may provide and may remove any Submission at any time in Internet Innovation Alliance’s sole discretion.
By posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting your Submission you warrant and represent that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to your Submission as described in this section including, without limitation, all the rights necessary for you to provide, post, upload, input or submit the Submissions.
THE INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, AND SERVICES INCLUDED IN OR AVAILABLE THROUGH THE Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE MAY INCLUDE INACCURACIES OR TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS. CHANGES ARE PERIODICALLY ADDED TO THE INFORMATION HEREIN. Internet Innovation Alliance AND/OR ITS SUPPLIERS MAY MAKE IMPROVEMENTS AND/OR CHANGES IN THE Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE AT ANY TIME. ADVICE RECEIVED VIA THE Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON FOR PERSONAL, MEDICAL, LEGAL OR FINANCIAL DECISIONS AND YOU SHOULD CONSULT AN APPROPRIATE PROFESSIONAL FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE TAILORED TO YOUR SITUATION.
Internet Innovation Alliance AND/OR ITS SUPPLIERS MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS ABOUT THE SUITABILITY, RELIABILITY, AVAILABILITY, TIMELINESS, AND ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS CONTAINED ON THE Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE FOR ANY PURPOSE. TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, ALL SUCH INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS ARE PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF ANY KIND. Internet Innovation Alliance AND/OR ITS SUPPLIERS HEREBY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES AND CONDITIONS WITH REGARD TO THIS INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS, INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, TITLE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT.
Internet Innovation Alliance reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate your access to the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site and the related services or any portion thereof at any time, without notice. GENERAL To the maximum extent permitted by law, this agreement is governed by the laws of the State of Washington, U.S.A. and you hereby consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of courts in King County, Washington, U.S.A. in all disputes arising out of or relating to the use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site. Use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site is unauthorized in any jurisdiction that does not give effect to all provisions of these terms and conditions, including without limitation this paragraph. You agree that no joint venture, partnership, employment, or agency relationship exists between you and Internet Innovation Alliance as a result of this agreement or use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site. Internet Innovation Alliance’s performance of this agreement is subject to existing laws and legal process, and nothing contained in this agreement is in derogation of Internet Innovation Alliance’s right to comply with governmental, court and law enforcement requests or requirements relating to your use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site or information provided to or gathered by Internet Innovation Alliance with respect to such use. If any part of this agreement is determined to be invalid or unenforceable pursuant to applicable law including, but not limited to, the warranty disclaimers and liability limitations set forth above, then the invalid or unenforceable provision will be deemed superseded by a valid, enforceable provision that most closely matches the intent of the original provision and the remainder of the agreement shall continue in effect. Unless otherwise specified herein, this agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the user and Internet Innovation Alliance with respect to the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site and it supersedes all prior or contemporaneous communications and proposals, whether electronic, oral or written, between the user and Internet Innovation Alliance with respect to the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site. A printed version of this agreement and of any notice given in electronic form shall be admissible in judicial or administrative proceedings based upon or relating to this agreement to the same extent an d subject to the same conditions as other business documents and records originally generated and maintained in printed form. It is the express wish to the parties that this agreement and all related documents be drawn up in English.
COPYRIGHT AND TRADEMARK NOTICES:
All contents of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site are: and/or its suppliers. All rights reserved.
The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.
The example companies, organizations, products, people and events depicted herein are fictitious. No association with any real company, organization, product, person, or event is intended or should be inferred.
Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved.
NOTICES AND PROCEDURE FOR MAKING CLAIMS OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
Pursuant to Title 17, United States Code, Section 512(c)(2), notifications of claimed copyright infringement under United States copyright law should be sent to Service Provider’s Designated Agent. ALL INQUIRIES NOT RELEVANT TO THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURE WILL RECEIVE NO RESPONSE. See Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.