Net neutrality advocates are blasting the Federal Communications Commission over "misleading information" about mobile carriers' network investment in the forthcoming annual report on mobile competition.
A draft of the FCC's 121-page report says that network investment by the wireless carriers dropped by 9% in the year following 2015, which is when the agency adopted net neutrality rules.
But advocacy group Free Press says the FCC's draft leaves out key historical context.
"The easily verifiable truth is that wireless industry investments peaked in 2013, as carriers completed the bulk of 4G LTE deployments," Free Press writes in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "What’s more, this is by no means the only years-long downturn for the wireless sector: such periods of slower spending are natural."
The FCC's net neutrality rules reclassified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier rules on providers, including prohibitions on blocking and throttling content, and creating paid fast lanes.
Pai, who is urging the agency to reverse the decision to treat broadband service as a utility, has argued that the 2015 rules resulted in a decrease in investment. He recently cited the recent 9% drop in investment in a speech delivered at Mobile World Congress Americas, where he argued that the decrease in capital expenditures was the "most concerning emerging issue" the FCC was seeing.
"I think you know where I’m going next," he added. "The FCC is currently examining whether we should change our Internet regulations in order to encourage greater deployment and investment and bring digital opportunity to more Americans."
Free Press countered in its letter that there was also a drop in investment between 2013 and 2014 -- before the net neutrality rules were passed. The group also noted that the carrier AT&T told the FCC in 2010 that capital expenditures are "lumpy," because providers may make investments one year, but then focus on acquiring new customers the following year.