Mark Cuban Again Illustrates He Has No Idea What Net Neutrality Is Or Why It's Important

from the words-are-but-wind dept

To be very clear, there are some subjects Mark Cuban has a very good understanding of, ranging from his support of patent reform and his helpful goal of improving antiquated film release windows to highlighting the SEC's disdain for the 14th and 4th Amendments during his fight over insider trading allegations. That said, for some reason when the Dallas Mavericks owner begins talking about telecom, Internet video and net neutrality, a string of cryptic gibberish begins to spill forth from his head that's entirely detached from the cogent, mortal plane.

As the boss of HDNet (now AXS TV), Cuban spent years crying and wailing about the rise of Internet video. He frequently attacked companies offering content for free, insisted that Hulu viewers "leech off the money we pay to enjoy tv," waged a bizarre, unsuccessful one man war against "illegal" YouTube, and told anybody who would listen that Internet video was destined to failure. That mindset fueled his position on net neutrality, one that largely mirrors that of the cable and broadcast industry at large (read: everything is fine and we need no rules). Cuban even at one time urged ISPs to go ahead and block P2P entirely (legitimate uses be damned).

Spurred by the recent Title II debate, Cuban has emerged once again to share his neutrality insights on Twitter, where he recently floated the increasingly stale idea that supporting a neutral Internet is a government assault on on the Utopian miracle that is the telecom free market:
Cuban also offered up a Q&A session with the Washington Post because, Post writer Nancy Scola informs us, "there's nothing that Cuban dislikes more than untested conventional wisdom" (aka the need for net neutrality rules). Most of us by now know the U.S. broadband market isn't free or functional -- it's a broken duopoly, slathered in a layer of regulatory capture, preying on a captive audience incapable of voting with their wallets. Cuban's refusal to acknowledge this reality is on stark display throughout the Q&A:
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Verizon decision [the January, 2014, court order that struck down the Federal Communication Commission's 2010 passage of net neutrality rules] has created an opportunity for the FCC to introduce more rule-making. They shouldn't. Things have worked well. There is no better platform in the world to start a new business than the Internet in the United States."
Except innovation is being threatened precisely because the U.S. broadband market is indisputably broken. Companies like Verizon and AT&T have abused the fact they dominate 85% of the wireless retail market for years, whether it's the blocking of handset GPS radio functionality to push their own GPS apps, the blocking of Google Wallet to help adoption of their own mobile payment platforms, or the blocking of Facetime to push users toward metered data plans. On the fixed-line side you've got residential ISPs who've also been abusing the lack of competition to impose entirely unnecessary usage caps to hinder Internet video use and protect TV revenues.

As we've noted for many years now, these very real, very clear anti-competitive behaviors are a symptom of the broader disease that is a lack of competition. While there's certainly a conversation to be had about the perils of government over-reach if rules aren't done correctly, if you're still somehow arguing that the U.S. broadband industry is a healthy, functioning free market, you're simply not credible on the subjects of net neutrality or telecom.

We've noted how Title II with forbearance is the best tool we have in light of this lack of competition to keep the Internet healthy and consumers protected. To defend their government-pampered fiefdoms from any attempt to change the status quo, incumbent ISPs have falsely claimed that Title II "bans fast lanes" or "stifles investment," both of which are demonstrably not true. Yet Cuban buys this argument without question:
"I want certain medical apps that need the Internet to be able to get the bandwidth they need. There will be apps that doctors will carry on 5G networks that allow them to get live video from accident scenes and provide guidance. There will be machine vision apps that usage huge amounts of bandwidth. I want them to have fast lanes."
That protecting net neutrality will break grandma's pacemaker is a favorite talking point of the telecom industry, even though none of the proposed rules would hinder things like prioritized machine to machine connectivity, and the FCC's simply never going to ban intelligent network management. You'll recall that one of Verizon's greasier arguments of late has been that net neutrality rules will harm the deaf. Amusingly the majority of deaf and disabled groups not only don't agree (apparently AT&T hasn't gotten around to paying them yet), the majority of deaf and disabled groups support Title II. For someone who claims to hate "conventional wisdom" and professes loving questioning things so much, Cuban seems quick to buy Verizon's line of nonsense.

In one of the more amusing exchanges, Cuban proceeds to insist that because none of the entrepreneurs he speaks to bring up net neutrality in meetings, net neutrality as a concept must not be very important to the broader Internet:
"I have yet to talk to a single entrepreneur, or investment I have, or potential investment I have, or [seen an] acquisition or sale of a company on the Internet where the issue of net neutrality has come up. No one starting a business even considers net neutrality in their business, except for those that are religious about it and ISPs and networks that have to deal with any uncertainty it introduces."
This couldn't possibly be explained by the fact that entrepreneurs or potential deal partners sitting in Mark Cuban's office have done their research, know Cuban loathes net neutrality, and therefore don't mention it because they want his money right?

The Mavs owner then proceeds to brush aside concerns over programs like AT&T's Sponsored Data, which involves companies paying AT&T for the privilege of bypassing arbitrary user caps. That, as VC Fred Wilson eloquently pointed out, sets a dangerous precedent in that it lets deeper-pocketed companies buy an advantage over the same smaller entrepreneurs Cuban professes to love. T-Mobile's Music Freedom plan sets a similarly bad precedent for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Yet like so many people who don't actually understand net neutrality (including the FCC), Cuban thinks these kinds of arbitrarily-erected monetization efforts are cute and creative business models:
"It's a business decision that has as a much chance to fail as work. If you don't like the offering from T-Mobile you may go somewhere else. Or if you like the offering, you may switch to T-Mobile. If T-Mobile came to me and asked me if I wanted to subsidize their consumers getting [Dallas] Mavs games streamed live over their phones or to mobile home routers, without impacting their data caps, I would love it, if the price was right, and would do it in a heartbeat."
Of course Cuban has already made his fortune. Were we to take 1995 Mark Cuban (who was busy building Broadcast.com) and transplant his business into the modern era under AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- you can be damn sure he'd be taking a very different approach to these issues. Cuban has spent a decade making it abundantly clear he doesn't understand net neutrality, the telecom market or the potential pitfalls of these new cap exempt business models. Perhaps we should put Mark Cuban, Donald Trump and all the rest of the billionaires with plenty to say but little actual understanding in charge of the telecom industry. At least we'd get some entertainment value out of the equation while the Internet burns.

Filed Under: broadband, fast lanes, mark cuban, net neutrality, open internet, regulations


Reader Comments

The First Word

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 26 Nov 2014 @ 11:36am

    Re:

    "I try to work on what i know Im working on, what i know is happening."

    That's an entirely good thing. I suggest that you might want to try getting down in the trenches with those of us who helped build and run this network. I don't mean the nouveau-rich elite, or the investors, or the management teams, or people hobnobbing at resort-hosted conferences. I mean the people who have their hands on the wires and their eyes on the terminals: the network engineers and system administrators that you'll rarely see, and who will rarely, if ever, get to cash out in a big way. I mean the people who actually run the Internet, not the people running operations connected by the Internet.

    The world looks very different from there than it does from boardrooms.

    Those of you who are new to the Internet ("new" means "did not have an email address ending in .ARPA") would greatly benefit from exposure to the ideas of the people who envisioned it decades out. I also think you'd find both their success stories and their failures instructive -- particularly the latter, as we humans seem to learn best from catastrophes. (Sometimes. Other times we seem very intent on repeating painful lessons for no particularly good reason.)

    It's late 2014. I'm just about to tick over year 35 online, and yet the only two choices I have for connectivity at home (Verizon DSL, Comcast cable) are both absolutely horrendous in terms of service, support, price and reliability. (Verizon is, as everyone knows, not interested in maintaining existing copper. And Comcast's shoddy installation work has left the neighborhood with cables laying on the surface and junction boxes "protected" from the weather by garbage bags and duct tape. And it just gets worse from there as I work my way up the hardware/software/personnel stack: I'll spare you the litany. Suffice it to say that I'm not even a Comcast customer and I hate them already.)

    That's absurd. I'm an hour from the friggin' capital of the United States of America, the country where we built the ARPAnet and CSnet and Usenet and thus the Internet, and I can't even get close to the service/support/price/reliability numbers in South Korea. Or Finland. Or Japan. Or Sweden. Or {insert long list of countries not called the United States here}.

    I should have 20M bidirectionally for $20/month with no caps, no throttling, no DPI, no DNS forgery, no HTTP tampering, and only the QoS management that's technically necessary (e.g, prioritize VOIP ahead of SMTP). But you know what I've got? As of 2:27 PM 11/26/2014, I've got .93M down, .40M up. For $39/month. And it'll probably go up again soon because. Meanwhile, the AVERAGE Internet connection speed in Japan was 60M and the price was about $18/month...FOUR YEARS AGO.

    So while I'm not entirely sanguine about Title II, you know what? I don't care anymore. I'm willing to risk it, because the possibility of failure that it entails is better than the certainty of failure that the status quo guarantees. I've seen quite enough of the deliberate crippling of critical national infrastructure for the sake of corporate and personal profit, thank you very much.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.