Internet service providers spent most of last year publicly contending that new regulations would discourage cable companies and telecoms from investing in their broadband networks.
When talking to analysts, however, broadband providers sounded a different note. Late last year, Verizon's Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said at a conference that the company will continue to invest in its networks regardless of whether the FCC reclassifies broadband as a Title II utility service.
“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. If you think about it, we were born out of a highly regulated company, so we know how this operates,” he said.
Executives from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications expressed similar sentiments at the same conference.
Now that Charter wants to merge with Time Warner and Bright House, the company's CEO is telling the FCC directly that the decision to reclassify broadband as a utility hasn't affected Charter's plan to invest “significantly” in its network.
Charter head Tom Rutledge made the comments at a meeting regarding the company's pending deals with Time Warner and Bright House deals, according to a filing made public today.
“Rutledge agreed that the Commission’s decision to reclassify broadband Internet access under Title II has not altered Charter’s approach of investing significantly in its network,” the company says in its filing. “Moreover, Charter continues to believe in the growth opportunity for the cable sector generally, as reflected in the Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks transactions.”
The letter doesn't mention possible merger conditions, but Charter certainly seems to be signaling that it would agree to follow some net neutrality rules if the deals go through.
Specifically, Rutledge said that Charter “supports” rules that prohibit providers from throttling or blocking lawful content, or charging companies extra fees for prioritized delivery. Those are the same rules that AT&T recently promised to follow as a condition of its DirecTV merger, according to The Washington Post.
Charter isn't indicating whether it will agree to follow other aspects of the open Internet order -- including potential new privacy restrictions, and a broad prohibition on impeding consumers and content companies from reaching each other -- in exchange for merger approval. Rutledge said the company was concerned about “the regulatory uncertainty and potential unintended consequences” that could come from treating broadband as a utility service.