Mark Cuban on net neutrality: Fear the FCC, not Comcast

If you like tech and you like sports, it’s hard not to like Mark Cuban: the straight-shooting Dallas Mavericks owner wins championships, builds companies and fights patent trolls all while maintaining a down-to-earth attitude with fans and the public. That’s why it’s so disappointing to hear his views on net neutrality.

Speaking at a BusinessInsider eventin New York, Cuban doubled down on a recent Twitter rant in which he likened the FCC’s proposed broadband regulation to some sort of socialist dystopia.

“We’re seeing competition, but everyone is like ‘the big ISPs are going to fuck everyone,'” said Cuban, who argued on Monday that the public is better off waiting for competition between broadband providers than running the risks of regulation.

The profane billionaire pointed to the FCC’s reaction to the Janet Jackson nipple-slip incident to argue the agency is inherently political, and will ultimately screw up forbearance or whatever pro-consumer mandate it tries to impose.

In Cuban’s view, the widespread fears that ISPs like Comcast will squeeze small websites are illusory, while the outlook for fast internet is better than we think. Cuban assured the audience that, years from now, we’ll all be awash in 8-gigabit internet and so we can rest easy.

Cuban pointed to Google’s new Fiber service in Austin, and AT&T’s proposed wireless broadband services to suggest that internet competition is alive and well. He also dismissed concerns about Verizon and other ISPs throttling Netflix unless they paid a toll as irrelevant to the net neutrality debate.

While acknowledging that there’s “not enough competition,” Cuban suggested the problem will solve itself as more companies rush in to offer more internet options.

If only this were true. As one perspicacious questioner pointed out, Google Fiber and AT&T’s services cover only a minuscule part of land, and there’s no indication they will be spreading anytime soon. Meanwhile, the situation is likely to get worse as Comcast is poised to entrench its monopoly position in many markets by swallowing its largest rival, Time Warner Cable.

Advocates for internet competition can only hope that Cuban will follow his Mavericks on the road to cities like Brooklyn, where there’s precisely one broadband provider — and consumers have no hope of switching, no matter how bad the service gets.