USTelecom: Capital Investment in Broadband Up in 2018

USTelecom has released new data it says shows broadband capital investment was up $3 billion in 2018, saying that continued a trend that began when the FCC signaled it planned to eliminate the FCC's rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of internet access.

It is a preliminary look at the 2018 data, but USTelecom estimates that U.S. broadband providers, wired and wireless, invested $75 billion in 2018, up from $72 billion the year before.

"The decline in capital investment starting in 2015 and the recovery that started in 2017 suggest the likelihood of a negative regulatory impact from the 2015 utility classification of broadband providers and, conversely, a positive impact from a return to a more forward-looking policy environment in 2017," said USTelecom.

The data was released on the eve of the June 11, 2019, effective date of the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom order deregulating internet access. ISPs, joined by the FCC's Republican majority, have argued that the previous 2015 Open Internet Order imposing Title II-based regs had depressed investment, something net activists have vigorously disputed.

USTelecom conceded that that the swings in capital investment warranted further study given that they could also be affected by "macroeconomic conditions, technological developments, capital costs, taxes, competitive upgrade cycles" as well as regulation.

That said, USTelecom said that the "top line broadband capex data strongly suggest that the current pro-investment, pro-innovation, and pro-consumer policy environment is working."

“The latest evidence reaffirms that our policies are working," said Pai of the latest numbers. "Today’s figures show that investment in our nation’s broadband networks rose in 2018 for a second straight year, with an estimated increase of $3 billion. That follows other positive news. For instance, in 2018, fiber was deployed to more new homes in the United States than any year in history, and small cell deployment more than quadrupled. Average broadband speeds have increased substantially. And the digital divide is closing." 

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.