Cord-Cutting Can’t Happen Without More and Faster Internet

Over at The Mary Sue, Susana Polo makes an absolutely critical point for the debate about whether the cable model is about to collapse and people about to start cutting the cord en masse:

That the world is ready for streaming, a la carte television to become the default way that folks get their cable subscriptions delivered to them. This week the FCC released their eigth Broadband Progress Report, on the state of broadband internet service in the U.S., and they’ve collected some pretty interesting info. While broadband internet is available in 96% of American households, only 60% of Americans actually subscribe to the service. And of those 60%, only a minority of them actually get download speeds as high as 4 megabits per second, the minimum required speed for actual broadband as defined by the FCC. Most households are getting along with 768 kilobits a second. It’s hard to say whether this is because of subscriber preference, or because, well, many cable companies don’t exactly work very hard to guarantee that the speed they advertise is the speed you get. As Livescience points out, the bare minimum download speed for Netflix videos is 500 kbps, and that’s for particularly poor quality video.

Getting folks to give up cable in favor of streaming video services isn’t a matter of changing a single consumer preference. If cord-cutting is going to be a genuine movement, people are going to have to grow less attached to sports packages and more attached to faster internet, and to start demanding the availability of the latter. That’s a more complex cocktail of cultural changes than simply declaring that the cable companies are out of control.