The Cable Model and The Internet Model

The cable industry used the following model to build out the industry in the US:

1) cable operators were given local monopolies as incentive to build out the expensive last mile networks into every home in the market

2) cable operators leveraged this last mile monopoly to determine which cable channels to carry on their networks and which they would not carry

3) cable operators often required large free slugs of equity in the cable channels in order to agree to carry them on their networks

4) even with digital cable technology, cable systems rarely carry more than 1000 channels on their networks


The internet industry used the following model to build out the industry globally:

1) the internet was deployed on top of existing telecommunications infrastructure, initially dial-up modems that moved data over voice lines

2) no monopolies were given out as incentives to build out networks. entrepreneurs jumped in, financed by venture capital and other equity capital markets

3) anyone can put a server on the global internet and offer service to anyone. there are no gatekeepers

4) entrepreneurs don’t have to hand over slugs of their equity in order to get carriage on the global public internet

5) there are between 750mm and 1bn active domains on the global internet according to some estimates


These are two very different models but in one way they are converging. The last mile telcos and cable companies have taken over the internet access (last mile) market by virtue of the move from dial-up to broadband and today there is a duopoly in most local markets. It is very possible that these internet access providers could evolve the internet industry to the cable model.

And that is why Ted Cruz is wrong when he says this (at 3:50min in this talk):

This whole net neutrality thing is a fight between big boys, between gigantic companies on one side and gigantic companies on the other.

It’s actually a fight between the 1bn active domains and the roughly six or seven wired and wireless carriers who own the internet access market in the US. This is a David vs Goliath issue and the Davids don’t have the ability to go toe to toe in the market with the Goliaths. And that is why Net Neutrality is a conservative idea. Let’s keep the Internet industry operating on the Internet model and not allow it to be moved to a cable model. That is all that this is about. And I am going to do what I can to make that case to Ted Cruz and his conservative colleagues as soon as I get the chance.