Three cable, Internet providers say net neutrality regs won’t hurt investments

Francis Shammo, Verizon’s chief financial officer, recently told investors in a conference call that his company would not change their business plan should the Federal Communications Commission decide to regulate Internet access like a traditional phone company, the way President Barack Obama has suggested.

In response to a question, Shammo stressed that any change in net neutrality regulations would 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… Nothing will influence that.”

Shammo added that Verizon’s FiOS service was “born out of a highly regulated company” and is no stranger to what it takes to adhere to Title II of the Telecommunications Act. “But related to this discussion around net neutrality, the FCC has the right to regulate…”

However, he also appears to suggest that tougher regulations to ensure equal and unfettered access to websites based on provider are unnecessary, because “if you look at other countries who have done this, it kind of leads you down [the] path of total failure because it really, really slows down investment and slows down innovation.” That being said, Shammo has previously suggested any change in Internet regulations in the name of net neutrality will likely lead to lawsuits.

Days later, executives from Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Charter Communications told attendees to UBS’ annual Global Media and Communications Conference that strong regulations really wouldn’t change their current operations in any major, substantive way, if at all.

“We’d rather have a good regulatory regime than a complicated one,” said Tom Rutledge, Charter’s CEO during the conference.

Robert Marcus, CEO of Time Warner Cable, admitted that net neutrality regulations wouldn’t limit his company’s ability to charge consumers for services.

“No one, Title II proponents and opponents alike, have suggested that whatever the FCC does it should include any component of rate regulation,” Marcus said.

Michael Angelakis, vice chairman and chief financial officer at Comcast, said he didn’t foresee any hits to the company’s long-term profitability or return-on-investment potential as the result of stronger regulations.

Comcast and Time Warner, whose proposed merger is also under FCC review at this time, are airing radio ads in the United States suggesting a unified company would fully comply with strong net neutrality regulations, but Angelakis remains opposed to the proposal.

At the same time, regulations would not hamper Comcast’s planned investments. “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.”

The FCC is expected to make a decision on net neutrality and Internet regulation in 2015 but, as Gizmodo reported over the weekend, it might not have access to all the public comments submitted to the agency: An estimated 340,000 comments have been lost and won’t be delivered.

A new study from the Sunlight Foundation released last week detailed who said what during the second round of net neutrality public comments, finding a vast majority coming from those opposed to stronger regulations.

In a Reddit posting, Jeff Lyon, whose Fight for the Future group alone submitted some 777,364 letters in support of strict protections, said he’d received confirmation from the FCC’s chief enterprise architect that “of over 525,000 comments we submitted… at least 244,811 were missing from the data that the FCC released.”

For more on the US’ debate over net neutrality, read our previous coverage here and here.

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