8.24.2007 | The Internet is dead. Long live the Internet.

… so says Mark Cuban, the somewhat reclusive billionaire investor who made his fortune selling his Web 1.0 enterprise, Broadcast.com (formerly known as Audionet) to Yahoo! in 1999 for $5.6 billion in Yahoo! stock. His best-known venture since then, besides owning the Dallas Mavericks, is HD Net, which has hired on former CBS anchor Dan Rather to do some reporting on the side.

Anyway, all this just serves as prelude to what Cuban is trying to say. When Condé Nast Portfolio asked him what he meant by saying "the Internet is dead" and "for old people" in a Senate hearing, he explained it this way. In his own words:

Think of it this way. Way back when, electricity changed the world. … Do you get excited about electricity or is it just a utility? … The internet is in the same position today. It’s no longer an exciting platform for societal and business change. It’s a utility. It’s something that is exciting to people who remember the old days of the internet. The only way to change that is to upgrade the platform for bandwidth transport across the country to a minimum of 1 gigabyte per second throughout (sic)* to every home. At that point kids will come up with new and unique applications that we can’t imagine today. That’s when it becomes exciting. Until then, it’s dead and boring.

Comments on one technology news site disparaged Cuban as a "dead and boring" attention whore, turning his own words against him. Perhaps, but it's not too often that I'm prompted to think of the Internet on such a grand scale.

Thinking of Cuban's background in streaming multimedia content online, I'd be disappointed with today's Internet too. At one point I had expected television programs and radio stations to become readily available online. To a large extent, that never happened, and limited bandwidth is one reason why. What video we do have comes in small, digestible bits (though that may be the result of our short attention spans rather than technical limitations). But I can't fault Cuban for trying to get people to think beyond today's Internet. Processors improve exponentially, doubling their power every 18 months according to Moore's Law. Why not broadband speeds to match?

* The (sic) is to point out that Portfolio editors probably don't know the difference between a gigabit and a gigabyte, as one Digg commenter pointed out, and that Cuban had probably meant to say "1 gigabit per second throughput." There are eight bits in every byte.

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