Mark Cuban on Net Neutrality: Wacky, Wrong, or Both?

I'm a big fan of Mark Cuban, though I've never met him in person. He's a billionaire entrepreneur, he likes sports, and he's not afraid to take some heat for standing up for his guys (the Dallas Mavericks pro hoops team). I'm pretty sure we would have a fun night out on the town.

However, reading the comments Cuban made about network neutrality to my colleague Jeff Bercovici earlier this week, I can only conclude that Cuban has either completely lost touch with reality or is just shilling for his own company HDNet, which offers all-high-definition TV fare via a slew of providers, including cable TV outfits.

Of course, the idea that Cuban may be slightly "off" is hardly new: He's racked up more fines for wacky behavior than any other NBA owner in league history. One of his own stars once said: "He's got to learn how to control himself as well as the players do." And some of his past pronouncements, such as declaring the death of YouTube in 2006, and the death of the Internet in general in 2007, have proved to be way off the mark.

Cuban made his fortune at the height of the dot-com bubble by selling his company,, to Yahoo! for $5.9 billion in Yahoo! stock. Since then, he has been an outspoken voice in American culture -- with very mixed results. He once criticized the NBA's manager of officials, Ed T. Rush, saying that Rush "wouldn't be able to manage a Dairy Queen." That earned Cuban a $500,000 fine and a day's work serving ice cream at a Dallas Dairy Queen, after the company protested.

During the 2006 NBA playoffs, Cuban cursed out Spurs forward Bruce Bowen and was fined $200,000 by the NBA for rushing onto the court. After the 2006 finals, the league fined Cuban $250,000 for repeated bad behavior following the Mavericks' loss to the Miami Heat in game five. More recently, the NBA fined the billionaire $25,000 for yelling at Denver Nuggets player J.R. Smith during a January game. In March, he apologized after telling the mother of Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin that her son was "a thug."

Cuban's latest pronouncement involves the new FCC broadband policy rules, announced Sept. 21. In a nutshell, he argues that a free and open internet will be "crippled by a glut of live and streaming video, which leaves disgruntled consumers with no other option but to get cable," as MediaPost puts it. Thus, so-called "net neutrality" is a big win for Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, as well as other cable providers.

In response to a question about his comments to Bercovici, Cuban calls his position "pretty straightforward stuff."

"An open net is just that," Cuban wrote in a Facebook message to DailyFinance. (He almost never does phone interviews.) "And if anyone has the expectation of TV over the Internet, an open Internet will kill that expectation."

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