Comcast, Charter, TWC All Admit That Strong Net Neutrality Rules Won’t Actually Be The End Of The World

Every single one of the big ISPs has been spending the better part of a year telling both the government and the public that using Title II to regulate net neutrality would be so counterproductive, ineffective, and unlawful that it would ruin the whole internet for everyone forever. Their main threat has been that with tighter regulation, they will stop spending money investing in networks. But to their investors, company executives are telling a different tale entirely: Comcast, Charter, and Time Warner Cable have now joined Verizon in admitting that from an investment standpoint, Title II won’t really harm them or change much of anything at all.

Executive leadership from all three companies spent some time at a conference trying to “ease concerns” about the impact stronger regulation would have on investors, the Washington Post reports.

Participants at the conference of course asked the heads of the ISPs about their thoughts on the Obama administration’s call for the FCC to use Title II to create strong net neutrality regulation. If there’s one thing on earth executives hate, it’s scaring investors — and so all of them deflected concerns that strong regulation would be a problem for their businesses.

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge admitted that while he doesn’t really want Title II, as long as the FCC is careful only to apply relevant parts of the regulation (a process called forbearance, and one in which title II advocates are strongly in favor) then really, it’s no big deal. “It’s not like we can’t operate in that world and that we don’t want to, but we’d rather have a good regulatory regime than a complicated one.”

Time Warner Cable COO Robert D. Marcus, meanwhile, fielded a question about federal interference in price regulation if the FCC uses Title II, a concern that opponents of regulation have often floated. But, Marcus said, that’s really not a concern at all. He answered that, “No one, Title II proponents and opponents alike, have suggested that whatever the FCC does it should include any component of rate regulation.”

Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis hedged slightly more than his peers. When asked if Title II regulation would change the way Comcast runs its business, he answered, “I certainly hope not,” but continued, “the devil would be in the detail and it’s too speculative right now to sort of make those kinds of decisions.”

Angelakis stayed slightly more on-message with the “regulation is bad” theme than his counterparts, concluding: “We want to invest in infrastructure, we want to invest in broadband, we want that to be an important part of our legacy in terms of how we invest in and build these kinds of things and Title II just is unfortunately a negative,” without saying why.

Comcast, like Verizon and AT&T, has previously said that using Title II “would be a radical reversal that would harm investment and innovation.”

These admissions — that perhaps regulation won’t actually be the end of the world as we know it — come right after Verizon’s inadvertent honesty last week. The company tried to walk it back as soon as the headlines began to appear, but by then everyone — including FCC chairman Tom Wheeler — had heard the message.

Comcast, Charter and Time Warner Cable all say Obama’s net neutrality plan shouldn’t worry investors [Washington Post]

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