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WASHINGTON — On Tuesday morning, Donald Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, spoke at a broadband-industry conference and falsely claimed that Net Neutrality protections contribute to uncertainty in the marketplace and a decline in industry investments in networks.

“It is evident that the FCC made a mistake … [and] injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market, and that’s the enemy of growth,” Pai claimed before the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. He then claimed that the FCC’s actions directly harmed the broadband industry, asserting that as a result “the U.S. experienced its first-ever decline in broadband investment outside of a recession.”

Pai also indicated, once again without offering evidence, that doing away with open internet safeguards will help bridge the digital divide in the United States. In earlier speeches the chairman has claimed that closing the digital divide is his top priority at the agency.   

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood has the following response:

“Chairman Pai wants people to believe that he’s a champion for more open and affordable broadband. The actions he’s taken since becoming chairman last month show he’s anything but. Using the exact same kind of unilateral power plays he previously decried in other chairmen, he’s made it far more difficult for low-income families to take advantage of a program that makes broadband access more affordable. His only plan is floating tax breaks to companies for the networks they’re already building, even though he has no power to change tax law and even though these kinds of tax breaks would do nothing to make internet access more affordable.

“Pai keeps repeating the utterly debunked claim that the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules are utility-style regulations that are hurting broadband deployment. This is false on the law and false on the facts. It ignores not just the actual language of the FCC order, which explicitly forbears from the bulk of Title II, but the actual impact that Title II reclassification has had on the market.

“Pai’s claim that Net Neutrality protections have created great uncertainty in the marketplace is a flat-out lie, as is his notion of flatlining investment by internet service providers. We long ago discredited these claims.

“Pai’s frequent charge that investment has declined is based on the claims made by one industry-paid analyst, who selectively edits the figures reported by some of these companies. But if you take account of the industry’s spending as a whole, you’ll see that broadband-industry investment was nearly 5 percent higher in the two years following the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order than it was in the two years prior.

“What’s more, these industry aggregate totals don’t tell the whole story. Individual companies large and small significantly increased their broadband-infrastructure investments following the rules’ adoption. Comcast, the nation’s largest ISP, has invested far more in the two years following the FCC's order as the company has rolled out the next generation of cable-modem service. Smaller providers like Cincinnati Bell have increased their investments in fiber-to-the-home technology. And all wireless carriers have invested in completing their 4G deployments and preparing for 5G.

“Reporters shouldn't let Trump's man at the FCC spread easily debunked falsehoods like these. Pai’s relentless spin and his inaccurate numbers beg the question: What else is Pai misleading us about? People need to take a moment to double check the alternative facts coming from this FCC chairman.”

A table of actual ISP capital expenditures from 2013 to 2016 is available here (PDF):

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