Finance

Stocks Weather Net Neutrality Storm

Stocks are stable as FCC moves to dismantle Open Internet rules 11/21/2017 6:09 PM Eastern

Pay TV stocks remained stable in the wake of Federal Communications Commission chief Ajit Pai’s moves to dismantle Title II classification of broadband providers, keeping a promise he made when he took office earlier this year.

Related: FCC Moving to Repeal Bright-Line Net Neutrality Rules

For the most part, stocks in the cable distribution sector were flat. Comcast rose 1.7% and Charter was up less than 1% for the day.

Pai has long opposed so-called net neutrality, a set of regulations under the 2015 Open Internet order and imposed by Pai's predecessor, Tom Wheeler. Wheeler, who was named FCC chair in the Obama Administration, called Pai’s recent moves “a tragedy,” according to reports.

But cable and telco broadband service providers have opposed the rules from the start, arguing that they are already doing much of what the regulations mandate on their own. And while Pai’s moves could allow broadband companies to throttle back some websites and charge for priority speeds or treatment, they would have to disclose when they are doing that even under the new rules. Perhaps that, and the fact that Pai’s stance on the regulation has never been a secret, led to the relatively tepid market reaction.

Related: House Republicans Say They'll Work for Permanent Net-Neutrality Rules

Comcast closed at $36.42 per share, up 59 cents each or 1.7%, while Charter Communications finished the day at $338.51, up 14 cents each or 0.04%. Altice USA shares fell 1.9% (38 cents each) to $20.10 each.

Telcos Verizon Communications, down 2 cents (0.04%) to $46.18 and AT&T, which Monday (Nov. 20) revealed the Department of Justice filed suit to block its merger with Time Warner Inc., fell 31 cents each (0.89%) to $34.33 per share.

On the content side, Viacom rose 4.2% ($1.12) to $27.27 each; Time Warner rose $1.85 each (2.1%) to $89.56 per share, The Walt Disney Co. rose 25 cents (0.24%) to $103 each and 21st Century Fox increased 22 cents (0.7%) to $30.88 per share. AMC Networks rose 71 cents (1.4%) to $50.55 per share and Discovery Communications, in the middle of the regulatory approval process for its $14,6 billion purchase of Scripps Networks, fell 12 cents each (0.7%) to $17.24 per share.

Tech stocks like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix were relatively flat as well. Facebook was up the most – 1.75% or $3.12 each to $181.86 –followed by Google, up 1.6% ($16.13 per share) to $1,034.51; Amazon up 1.2% ($13.28 each) to $1,139.59; and Netflix, up 1.1% ($2.12 each) to $196.22 per share.

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