As the FCC continues to examine its options for establishing new net neutrality laws, ISPs have insisted that classifying broadband under Title II would stifle innovation. The argument goes like this: since providers can't be sure they'll recover money poured into their networks, they simply won't bother investing at the same pace. AT&T has suggested as much — which led the FCC to ask it some questions on the subject — and other industry heavyweights like Intel and Qualcomm have also urged the Commission to steer clear of Title II. But Verizon, the courtroom opponent that dismantled the FCC's previous net neutrality framework, isn't echoing the "we'll stop investing" threat.
"This does not influence the way we invest."
Fran Shammo, Verizon's CFO, recently said that the company will keep investing in FiOS and other wireless networks regardless of where the FCC lands on net neutrality. "To be real clear, I mean this does not influence the way we invest," he said during a recent UBS investment conference. "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." It would seem "nothing" would include broadband coming under Title II regulation, the preferred outcome of President Obama and net neutrality advocates.
But there's probably another reason Verizon isn't threatening to cut off its network investments just yet: it's got the luxury of time. Numerous companies, Verizon included, have all but guaranteed to immediately sue the FCC if it pursues a net neutrality plan centered around Title II. A massive legal battle could derail the FCC's plan and keep any policy in limbo for years to come. Shammo didn't hide the fact that the FCC will be met with stiff resistance if it pushes the "extreme" idea of Title II. "I think it’s going to be a very litigious environment," he said. In a blog post Thursday, Shammo sought to clarify his remarks and insisted they line up with Verizon's stance on Title II. "We don't change our short-term view on investment based on rumors of what might or might not happen," he wrote, adding:
As we and other observers of the net neutrality debate have made abundantly clear, experience in other countries shows that over-regulation decreases network investment. If the U.S. ends up with permanent regulations inflicting Title II's 1930s-era rules on broadband Internet access, the same thing will happen in the U.S. and investment in broadband networks will go down.