Five years ago to the day, the FCC reclassified high-speed broadband as a “telecommunications” service subject to Title II regulations, which resulted in the largest drop in broadband capital expenditures since the 2008-2009 recession. Annual broadband provider capital spending dropped $500 million in 2015 and $2.7 billion in 2016. By the end of 2016, capital expenditures sunk to $74.8 billion, more than $3 billion lower than 2014’s $78 billion.
Fortunately, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s 2017 reversal of the Title II decision put U.S. broadband capital expenditures back on track. Annual capital expenditures grew significantly from 2016-2018, increasing by $2 billion in 2017 before jumping up by $3 billion in 2018. In 2018, broadband providers invested approximately $80 billion in network infrastructure, over $5 billion more than 2016 levels.
Contrary to doomsday rhetoric, Title II is not the only path to net neutrality: the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which classified the internet like a modern communications system once again, paid dividends.