MARK AND ME About five years ago I wrote a column, one of many, questioning the government mandate of high definition television. It wasn’t that I thought HD was no good, or that folks— especially wealthier folks—wouldn’t like it. No, it was just that it seemed to me that the government was creating a huge artificial market and forcing everyone to participate. Not great public policy, and I called it consumer fraud. Consumers, after all, were not really given an option in the so-called "DTV transition." Sure, HD looks great, but the new sets started out at ten times the cost of the analog sets that still work very well. Consumers got lost in the rush to reallocate the spectrum, sell new TV sets, and maybe even create some new networks. But that’s all water over the dam. It’s happening, and I sure do like my HD set! At the time, one of the guys I noted was Mark Cuban, who was just rolling out HDnet . I basically said that selling HD just for the sake of HD would not be successful.. that the beautiful pictures were, indeed, beautiful, but there had to be more than that. Mark and I then commenced an email dialog about the topic (with something tagged on to the end of each of his emails about the Mavericks!) It was fascinating, and he in essence said, …"just watch." Well, I have been watching, and I can’t deny that my tendency these days is to always check out the HD channels first. I now agree with his sentiments at CTAM this week that HD is very important to a growing segment of our customers, and we’d be foolish not to provide as much HD programming as we can for them. There’s a new joint effort between cable (through CTAM) and the CE industry (through the CEA) right now to promote this transition, and HD…. we’d be crazy not to! Mark has also moved in my direction: his HDnet is starting to create programming (the long-form news shows, for instance) that have little to do with just showcasing HD but recognize that content is critically important too. So it looks like we are both moving toward a middle ground. Cuban and I also totally agree on something else that has taken a lot of column inches here: that there are a lot of folks who simply don’t understand that video via the Internet is not imminent, efficient, or indeed practical for the foreseeable future. Take a look at his blog (http://www.blogmaverick.com) for a piece he wrote on broadband technology and television delivery on July 14th. It’s well worth reading. This is a guy who knows and understands the Internet, and he is echoing what many of us have tried to explain to the folks on Capitol Hill and elsewhere: that the conceptual fear fueling the "net neutrality" debate surrounding "streaming video" is simply neither realistic nor accurate, and it could lead to legislation that does the exact opposite of what it’s proponents say they want! (also check out his July 12 entry "The Internet is Old News and Boring.. Deal with It.") That’s not me talking, that’s Mark Cuban, one of the Internet pioneers! Now he’s a successful pioneer of HD distribution as well. Eventually, though, that success will not simply be because of HD, but because of content, as it should be. Technology by itself, whether HD or the Internet, is not, and should not be the issue. It’s what you do with it that counts.