Cable Companies vs the Internet: The Future of Consumption

Not long ago, I published a video discussing the possible future of the Internet. I received a lot of feedback on this post (thank you all!) but one email in particular stood out. Max is a community member over on Geeks, and has an interesting theory I wanted to share with all of you. He feels that once the Internet can “catch up” to the speeds and availability that the cable companies now enjoy, we will no longer need or want cable television service at all.

I just watched your video about the future of the Internet and I thought I’d pass on a little prediction I have. I’ve been watching the advance of Internet bandwidth alongside television providers. At this present moment, to the average technologically connected consumer, Internet bandwidth average (about 3-5mbps in the US, much higher in other countries; hmmm? :/) is nowhere near capable of streaming the now standard 1080i/p video content.

Now, I personally loathe cable companies, as they are oppressive monopolies that control our local Internet infrastructure. Aside from my personal emotions toward cable, the facts show Internet is catching up, and cable is slowing down. Slowly, but surely, Internet bandwidth will increase in speed (I’m hoping for sooner – FIBER!!!). Google Fiber is helping to pioneer our next step into the future where those loading bars will be obsolete.

Now here’s the meat of my theory: My personal belief is the day that you and I can turn on a computer and stream multiple 1080p movies off the Internet, cable companies will die. Think about it. What would we need them for anymore? The only reason cable dominates, is because their bandwidth pipe to our cable boxes is orders of magnitude greater than Internet speed. Once Internet catches up to cable bandwidth, their usefulness will vanish.

Now problems lie in between. The cable companies aren’t going to go down without a fight. There should be FCC regulation in place: You can either own the water or the pipe; the content or the cable, but NOT both. Unfortunately, these regulations are grey areas and are put in fluid terms “special regulations governing content owned by providers” and cable companies are purchasing exclusive rights to HD sports and other content and refusing distribution to other providers.

I think cable companies right now are making deals with content providers to give them exclusive rights and not provide Internet content (yes, I’m touching on conspiracy theory but I may be right). To compensate, the Internet content providers of the present are trying to bring in revenue as well. Hulu is now charging for older episodes of content, Apple iTunes Store of course charges, YouTube even plays 30 second commercials before many of their movie trailers and have their own movie rental service.

This wave of free content on the Internet won’t last very long. It only works because it’s low quality and the providers don’t care because it’s not the same experience. But now HD is available, even if it’s not immediate gratification. I think free HD content online is affecting the bottom line of the cable providers, because it’s OH NO… COMPETITION! and they have to strike that down. Although I enjoyed getting movies and TV shows free online, that transition period is beginning to waiver, and I prefer higher quality anyway.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, cable companies won’t be necessary anymore when the Internet can pipe it through at fast enough rates. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be for another 5-10 years, but let’s keep our fingers crossed. In the end we’ll probably have a very similar box connected to the TV, but instead of a cable hook up, it has an Internet connection: Seen this anywhere?…Google TV :). Google seems to be on the forefront of the future of the internet, and I commend them for it. Let’s just hope the providers can cope with the demand when we get there!

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Max?