Title II and the $46 Billion Question

This year’s NFL team salary cap is $133 million, so with $46 billion, you could pay the annual salaries of every player on your favorite team until the year 2359.

Just how much is $46 billion? Put it this way: This year’s NFL team salary cap is $133 million, so with $46 billion, you could pay the annual salaries of every player on your favorite team until the year 2359.

That $46 billion is also the amount invested last year to upgrade America’s communications systems. This investment is what makes it possible for the 325 million of us to stream HD videos, download music, videoconference, and use other data-intensive applications made possible by high-speed Internet service.

With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently considering price regulations on high-speed Internet service, it’s important to know the cost and complexity of the next-generation communications networks. The $46 billion figure comes from a report issued this week about America’s “Investment Heroes” – the U.S. companies that invested the most during 2013 to build up America’s infrastructure.

In the report, AT&T took the top spot for the third year in a row, investing more than $20 billion last year. Verizon took second place, and two other telecom companies were also in the top 25. The combined total investment from these four U.S. telecom companies totaled $46 billion, the highest amount by far of any industry.

This report was issued by the Progressive Policy Institute, a group that promotes “break-the-mold ideas” to foster jobs, opportunity and economic growth.

In addition to quantifying the massive investment necessary for nationwide high-speed Internet, the report also raises important cautions for policymakers. The FCC is considering whether to roll back its nearly 20-year tradition of letting the Internet develop without government inference and heavy-handed regulation.

The Commission apparently is considering a regulatory framework known as “Title II”, an antiquated century-old regime of federal law that governed rotary dial phone service. Today’s modern, dynamic, multi-dimensional broadband networks are nothing like yesterday’s dial tone networks; the FCC should continue down the bipartisan path that has brought us today’s robust Internet services and offerings – letting the Internet develop and innovate without government intrusion. And today’s consumers deserve all of those same benefits.

Any move to impose that type of heavy-handed regulation would be a historic reversal of commonsense federal policy that began during the Clinton Administration. An 80-year-old law written during the Great Depression to regulate voice calls should not be the guidepost to regulate modern networks handling terabytes of data every hour.

This week’s “American Heroes” analysis is a reminder that high-speed Internet service requires billions in investment every month. A set of 1934 phone regulations has no business being the benchmark to regulate complex new technologies and will only hinder the necessary investment our country needs to continue providing the highest quality telecommunications networks for Americans.

So, as we congratulate all of the companies confidently investing in America’s future and economy, let’s make sure that the telecom companies are allowed to continue to invest to bring us modern Internet-based networks. No one knows what the future Internet has in store for us, but we should all agree that we should make sure that companies are properly positioned to invest so that innovators can create the newest and greatest, and so that we can enjoy what the future holds for us.

– Ron Busby
U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.