Two far-reaching and inter-locking decisions are pending in Washington: Approval of the proposed Comcast/Time Warner cable/broadband merger, and a decision on whether or not to maintain the policy of net neutrality. With the stark exception of Netflix whose CEO, Reed Hastings, who has spoken out against the merger, traditional media companies like Disney, Viacom, HBO and Univision and video streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu have remained disconcertingly silent, apparently intimidated by Comcast’s bullying tactics. As for net neutrality, it is looking increasingly likely that despite attempts by the FCC to soothe consumer concerns, internet broadband will be separated into fast and slow lanes based on differentiated pricing of what has hitherto been a public utility. Where will these controversial issues end up? Will businesses of all sizes as well as consumers have equal access to internet broadband? Or will cable and broadband become the sandbox of one dominant corporation?
In light of the recent market correction and increasing chatter about a new tech bubble, how likely are we to suffer a meltdown on the scale of, say, the 2000 dotcom bust? Despite some frothy if not downright gassy valuations, as well as some stubbornly profit-free strategies at notable private and publicly-traded companies, I believe the situation is quite different this time around.
A number of potent and probably irreversible megatrends are underpinning continued growth of consumer and enterprise tech for some years ahead. Nonetheless, while we continue to see some entrepreneurs, VCs, investment bankers, and investors bidding up valuations to laughable levels, or giving some companies a pass on delivering actual ROI in financial terms, we shall not be entirely free from risk.