FCC's Pai Praises Charter's $25B Infrastructure Investment

FCC chairman Ajit Pai Friday praised Charter for its announced $25 billion infrastructure investment pledge over the next four years, which came at an Oval Office photo op Friday with President Donald Trump and even took some credit for the new regulatory climate Charter's Tom Rutledge said had made and would make that investment possible.

“The FCC’s top priority is making sure that any American who wants high-speed Internet access, or broadband, is able to get it," he said in a statement. "To do that, since January, we have been working to set rules of the road that encourage companies to build and upgrade broadband networks across the country. I’m pleased to see that our investment-friendly policies, along with the Administration’s overall regulatory approach, are already producing results.

"I applaud Charter Communications for its announcement today that it intends to spend $25 billion in broadband infrastructure and technology over the next four years. I am optimistic that this massive investment will help to close the digital divide and to strengthen our economy.”

Closing that digital divide is a Pai priority, the new chairman said soon after taking office Jan. 23. He has argued that his predecessor's policies had discouraged that investment, particularly the reclassification of ISPs as common carriers, something Pai is expected to roll back if Congress does not beat him to it.

Since that $25 billion figure looked to be about what Charter would be spending in CAPEX over the next four years, based on previous financial statements on CAPEX, some were suggesting Charter was essentially promising to maintain the status quo.

A Charter source speaking on background said that was not the case, that CAPEX was a broader category than the "infrastructure and tech" that Rutledge said the investment was going to.

The source said that a comparable tech and infrastructure spending figure if Charter and TWC spending were combined between 2014 and 2016 would be about $16 billion over three years [or $21.3 billion over four], so the $25 billion figure would be a boost of almost a billion dollars a year.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.