A new report out Monday may raise concerns about how investment will be impacted by new regulations passed this year. The Progressive Policy Institute’s (PPI) fourth U.S. Investment Heroes report reveals that the industries with the largest domestic capital expenditures in 2014 were telecom and energy companies. Both industries have been confronted with costly new regulations imposed by the Obama administration in 2015.
Topping the list were AT&T and Verizon, which invested $21.1 billion and $16 billion, respectively. Telecom and cable companies in the top 25 invested a total of $48.7 billion in the U.S. economy in 2014. That’s an increase of 5.5% from the year prior.
But PPI’s report raises concerns for the industry. The authors examined investment for the first half of 2015 and found that spending has been at a pace 11 percent slower than 2014. The report suggests this is because of higher levels of regulation, particularly in reaction to the new Title II net neutrality rules imposed by the Federal Communications Commission.
Economists have warned that the rules, which came into effect in June, could reduce broadband investment by 17.8 percent to 31.7 percent per year. This follows an era of rapidly-increasing investment in broadband in which prices dropped and speeds increased. The lower levels of investment, the report suggests, could impact U.S. economic growth and job creation.
Just last week, Jeb Bush specifically cited the Title II net neutrality rules for their harm to the economy. The presidential candidate suggested that eliminating the FCC’s new regulations and loosening restrictions on other industries could bring a 3 percent GDP gain over the next 10 years.
The second largest industry sector on PPI’s Investment Heroes list was energy companies. Exxon Mobil led the way coming in at number three. The six energy companies in the top 25 had a total domestic capital expenditure of $43.6 billion by PPI’s estimate, which is an increase of 9 percent from 2014. The report noted the contribution that new production technologies have made to the increase in investment in an industry where profit margins are low compared to other industries because of high compensation for employees, operating costs, and required capital investments.
But as with the telecom companies, energy companies are also confronted by a number of new regulations likely to impact investment. New ozone limits set to be released this week are projected to reduce GDP by $140 billion, result in 1.4 million fewer jobs, and cost the average US household $830 in lost consumption on an annual basis through 2040. Additionally, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is set to increase electricity costs and shut down power plants, leading to job losses.
While investment in America has been looking up, critics see a difficult road ahead as a result of the new regulations. Telecom and energy companies may continue to lead the list in years ahead, but economists believe these two industries are likely to reduce their capital investments.