Net Neutrality Even Mark Cuban Could Love

Plain-spoken tech entrepreneur Mark Cuban argued this week in favor of Internet fast lanes, arguing that net neutrality would stifle innovation. But there are rules the FCC could write that would permit application innovation while still giving carriers the revenues they need to innovate on and build out their networks.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Cuban said in an email interview with The Washington Post. "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."

The Post asked whether Internet service providers should be able to "boost" content from specific providers, "whether it's Netflix or Joe's Homemade Films." Cuban replied:

Marc Cuban (Photo: Keith Allison).
Marc Cuban (Photo: Keith Allison).

    There is a difference between a boost and a fast lane. I want there to be fast lanes because there will be applications that need fast lanes. We are just now entering a period where we are seeing new ways to create and use high bitrate applications.

    People like to use movies and TV shows as a reference to issues that could occur on the Internet. [But] the real issue is that there will be many applications that we can't foresee today. [And] we need those applications to not just have priority, but guaranteed quality of service.

    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.

Entrepreneurs simply don't care about net neutrality, "except for those that are religious about it and ISPs and networks that have to deal with any uncertainty it introduces," Cuban says.

Cuban dismissed last winter's complaint that Comcast was restricting Netflix traffic as "poor resource allocation," and that Comcast throttled BitTorrent traffic in 2008 as "an issue that was caught and fixed." (See Netflix's Problem Is Its Transit Network – Report and Comcast Caves In to P2P Pressure.)

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Cuban doesn't elaborate on what he means by the "difference between a boost and a fast lane." But one proposal that would fit that description would be to permit carriers to create different classes and kinds of service and charge different rates -- but those rates should be uniform, open to anyone, and transparent. If Netflix cuts a sweetheart deal with Comcast, Comcast should make that same deal available to YouTube and "Joe's Homemade Films" too. This is a great idea. It's fair to everyone and, because it's simple, would resist regulatory capture by big businesses that could hire expensive teams of lawyers to game the system.

Cuban also endorses municipal broadband. And he's right to do it. Government service is an elegant remedy to the innovation-stifling effects of natural monopolies. Carriers that want to stay in business would have to beat the quality of service available from government networks.

Either way, the FCC needs to make a decision. We've been arguing about net neutrality for 12 years now; it's time to decide on what regulations, if any, we're going to have. Any decision will be better than the current state of uncertainty, because nothing kills innovation and investment like regulatory cloudiness.

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— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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Phil_Britt 11/30/2014 | 5:13:36 PM
Re: Net Neutrality hasn't been defined Geronimo,


While "the little guy" shouldn't get shut out on the Internet, there is something to be said for someone such as Netflix being able to paymore for a preferred fast lane. If providers can earn more by providing these preferred fast lanes, they will go out of their way to remove bottlenecks to provide even more of them.
MikeP688 11/27/2014 | 11:34:08 AM
Re: Why not kick Netflix of the Internet instead? It is fascinating to be witness to history and how it has truly evolved.   The question is whether Netflix will understand that and embrace the "new reality" at hand.    But the need of the few should not outweight the greater good of the many.

Happy Thanksgiving.
yarn 11/27/2014 | 8:22:43 AM
Why not kick Netflix of the Internet instead? Let's face it, over the top long form video such as Netflix doesn't scale on the Internet as it is. Remember the PSTN and the early beginnnigs of the Internet? You could yack for a nickle as long as you wanted and all were happy, until people started to connect dial-up Internet modems that tied up lines for hours. Service providers coundn't distinguish between regular phone calls or dial up and couldn't add trunk ports fast enough, to ensure people wouldn't get a busy tone on their life line phone services. Ultimately this was untenable. A dedicate broadband network was built, Internet dial-up was offloaded from the PSTN, and the Internet really took off. There was no need for any regulation to force service providers to keep scaling the PSTN for Internet dial-up usage and the outcome led to a much better Internet for every one.

Fast forward 15 years and we have over-the-top commercial video generating a busy tone on the Internet during prime time hours. This is not an issue of the Internet as it is but and issue of the way it's being used and monetized. And like before, the solution is to offload this traffic to a video delivery network designed for that. And guess what? Every cable and telecom operator already has such a video distribution network! How wonderful! Perfect HD quality for House of Cards any time of the day. The full library of Netflix VoD at your finger tips. A broadband video network that already reaches every household. Imagine how fast the Internet will become when over half of it's peak traffic gets offloaded!

It's time for Netflix to realize that the Internet was fine as a bootstrap network to get their business started, just like the PSTN was in the early days of the Internet, but will limit their further growth. Especially now they're becoming a content provider like every other, they're better off using the distribution infrastructure already in place. Better for them and better for the Internet.
MikeP688 11/27/2014 | 2:08:32 AM
Re: ISP Oligopoly I like how Mr. Wagner notes about Mark Cuban being "Plain Spoken".   As a Shark Tank Fan, I enjo how he rips apart the aspirants.  But, he's "kind of" sitting pretty because if and when the multiple tiers (as the carriers and content providers want) is created, it will benefit those high end "consumers" like Mr. Cuban.   Mr Wagner's sentiment is on point as he reinds us all that "..The FCC Needs to make a decision" .   The problem is the the shifting political reality in Washington that is underscored by simplistic statements from Senator Cruz and others who seem to abhnor anything that smacks of some sense of the Public Interest.   

Here is another Far-Fetched Idea:  Why can't Netflix Buy out Dish Network and create the fastest bandwith out there?   

MikeP688 11/27/2014 | 2:05:24 AM
Re: ISP Oligopoly THis is not a "political discussion".     Do we want to implicity trust the carriers or the service providers exclusively without a realization of the public interest in mind?    Why not insure that the carriers upgrade their existing infrastrctuure?


MikeP688 11/27/2014 | 1:51:44 AM
Re: Net Neutrality hasn't been defined Isn't that the whole point?  That prioritization should not happen--we cannot have multi-tier levels of service under the guise of "innovation".    As I see it, the categories per se should not matter.    As Mark Cuban's co-shark, Kevin O' Leary likes to say, it is about "Money".   The carriers want it for one simple reason: create a revenue stream at the expense of fairness which is the underpinning of net neutrality as I see it.


MikeP688 11/27/2014 | 1:45:35 AM
Re: ISP Oligopoly There is no question about " easy answers".   What I wonder is what you recommend?    I saw you noting abou the challenges.    Looking forward to your insights.

brooks7 11/26/2014 | 7:15:57 PM
Re: ISP Oligopoly "I have FIOS - fiber to the home. It is not over subscribed. I can get gigabit sevvice on it if want to pay $500/mth. "

You made a statement....


PS - Oversubscription is a provisioning thing.  How many times the bandwidth have they sold is the question.  You are thinking of congestion, which is a real time - hey how much bandwidth is flowing right now.

jonsmirl 11/26/2014 | 6:19:04 PM
Re: ISP Oligopoly brooks7,

This was not a general problem with oversubscription. Most of the Internet was working fine for me. I was even getting 40Mb/s on transcontinential links. When doing traceroutes on the problems, every problem access traced back to the same Cogent/Verizon exchange in NYC.
geronimo1000 11/26/2014 | 5:08:11 PM
Net Neutrality hasn't been defined Net Neutrality means different things to different people. People generally agree that services within the same category should not have unfair priority over competing services.

But what if I, as your ISP, prioritize your VoIP and Netflix traffic over your FTP and Bittorrent traffic? Should QoS really be against the law?
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