A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 18, 2018

Wireless Telecom Reducing Investment Despite Net Neutrality Repeal Promises

The death of net neutrality would spur a tidal wave of investment in wireless networks and related technology. The reverse is happening, which suggests that the reasons for opposition to net neutrality were either overblown - or simply not true. JL

Karl Bode reports in Tech Dirt:

One of the top reasons for killing net neutrality was that it had killed broadband industry investment. And, that with net neutrality dead, sector investment would spike. (But) instead of investing tax breaks, perks, and savings back into the network, they were pocketed by investors and executives.Verizon. AT&T and Sprint are all reducing overall CAPEX.
You'll recall that one of the top reasons for killing popular net neutrality rules was that it had somehow killed broadband industry investment. Of course, a wide array of publicly-available data easily disproves this claim, but that didn't stop FCC boss Ajit Pai and ISPs from repeating it (and in some cases lying before Congress about it) anyway. We were told, more times that we could count, that with net neutrality dead, sector investment would spike.
You'll be shocked to learn this purported boon in investment isn't happening.
A few weeks ago, Verizon made it clear its CAPEX would be declining, and the company's deployment would see no impact despite billions in tax cuts and regulatory favors by the Trump FCC. Trump's "tax reform" alone netted Verizon an estimated $3.5 billion to $4 billion. A recent FCC policy order, purporting to speed up 5G wireless deployment (in part by eliminating local authority over negotiations with carriers), netted Verizon another estimated $2 billion. And that's before you even get to the potential revenue boost thanks to the repeal of net neutrality and elimination of broadband privacy rules.
Ironically, Verizon's dip in CAPEX came right on the heels of the wireless industry and Ajit Pai, in perfectly coordinated unison, trying to claim that a CAPEX rise in 2017 was directly due to the repeal of net neutrality. They ignored an important point however: net neutrality wasn't even repealed until June of this year. If this endless roster of favors was to impact network investment, accelerate network deployment, and unleash a magical wave of "innovation," that should all be happening right now. And yet, the opposite is happening. And of course it's not just Verizon. AT&T and Sprint are also reducing overall CAPEX:
"Sprint, Verizon and AT&T have all reduced their overall capex numbers for 2018. The operators cite a variety of reasons, from timing issues to more efficient network technologies. But the ultimate result is the same: Where there was once excitement, now there’s a decided sense of pragmatism."
Now there's a number of different reasons for this, including some cost savings in moving from legacy hardware to more efficient virtualization technologies. But again, a decline is not what was promised ahead of the sales pitches for the tax cuts and the attack on net neutrality. The nation was, time and time again, promised unrivaled "innovation and investment boosts" if the nation's companies received a multi-billion-dollar tax cut, and net neutrality and other "regulatory underbrush" was cleared out of the way. That didn't happen.
Instead of investing all these tax breaks, perks, and savings back into the network, they were pocketed by investors and executives. Which, for anybody with half of a functional brain stem was the entire point of having a former Verizon lawyer running the FCC in the first place. This is a longstanding trend in telecom: promise the public the world if they get tax cuts, subsidies, and blind deregulation, then avoid doing pretty much all of those things while pocketing the savings. Perhaps someday America will actually learn some kind of lesson from the experience.


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