it has been a regulated industry
Industry regulation does not constitute a non-free market, just as industry deregulation does not constitute a free market.
Um, we're talking the telecommunications industry here -- where a free market does not exist. You cannot go into the cable business without the local and/or state (depending on the area) giving its blessing -- and they won't. The local/state governments have create monopolies. This is not a free market.
The same holds for the telephone industry. The norm is that a single company is granted a government monopoly in an area. There is no competition for land lines in a locale.
Don't get me wrong. You only want one company stringing phone lines throughout a community. You only want one company stringing cable coax throughout a community. But please, let's not pretend that these government created monopolies have anything to do with the free market.