Verizon: New Net Neutrality Rules Won’t Actually Hurt Our Network Investment At All (But We’ll Still Sue)

All of the big ISPs have been full of bluster about the FCC’s pending new net neutrality rules, but none more so than Verizon. Verizon is the company that sued in the first place to get the 2010 rule overturned, and they are the company that has been most aggressive with promises to sue again when the FCC actually comes up with a rule. Their main argument has been that strong regulation will damage their ability to invest in their networks — but it seems even Verizon’s own top executives don’t fall for that nonsense.

In a call earlier this week, Verizon flat out told investors that they were not concerned about the effect Title II regulation would have on their networks, the Washington Post reports.

One participant on the call asked specifically if a change to net neutrality regulations would have an impact on “the attractiveness of investing further in the United States.” And although Verizon CFO Francis Shammo reiterated the company’s preference for the FCC not to use Title II, he also made it very clear that even if the commission did so, it would have absolutely no impact on the company’s investment in networks (emphasis added):

I mean to be real clear, this does not influence the way we invest. I mean we’re going to continue to invest in our networks and our platforms, both in Wireless and Wireline FiOS and where we need to. So nothing will influence that.

Despite his reassurances to investors that Title II would not actually harm Verizon’s operations, Shammo repeated the company stance that Title II would earn the FCC a lawsuit, saying that “I think it’s going to be a very litigious environment” if the commission goes that route.

Verizon is not alone in their opposition to Title II. All of the ISPs have been staunchly against stronger regulation since the moment the 2010 rule was vacated, but their fervor increased following the President’s call for the FCC to use Title II. Immediately following the statement from the White House, the major trade group representing ISPs clamored that doing so would destroy investment, despite evidence to the contrary.

AT&T followed the next day by doing their best to make the argument that Title II will stifle innovation and block investment a self-fulfilling prophecy. The company dropped a not-so-veiled threat that net neutrality regulation would make them take their investment ball and go home when CEO Randall Stephenson told investors: “We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed.”

Of course, AT&T’s threat is and was somewhat hollow, as although AT&T has been considering perhaps expanding their gigabit fiber offerings to as many as 25 new cities, they haven’t started any of those improvement projects at all, yet.

The threat alone of stronger regulation is clearly a deterrent to further upgrades from AT&T. Except even without regulation, those upgrades have not exactly been forthcoming. So far the gigabit fiber expansion is more about good press releases than about good service to customers. And so, too, is the threat to take it away.

Verizon’s C-suite leadership telling investors not to worry about Title II confirms what the data have already shown: the claims about network investment are, at best, concern trolling and, at worst, disingenuous and hypocritical deflection. The FCC expects to be sued no matter what not because regulation will destroy private business, but because big companies want the ability to make more money at consumers’ expense.

Verizon: Actually, strong net neutrality rules won’t affect our network investment [Washington Post]