Internet

FTC Woos Wu

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Columbia Law's Timothy Wu, the tech-policy guru behind net neutrality, is set to advise the Federal Trade Commission, according to The Wall Street Journal:

Silicon Valley has a new fear factor. Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, an influential academic and author who popularized the term "net neutrality," has been appointed senior advisor to the Federal Trade Commission.

Mr. Wu, 38, will start his new position on Feb. 14 in the FTC's Office of Policy Planning, and will help the agency to develop policies that affect the Internet and the market for mobile communications and services. The FTC said Mr. Wu will work in the unit until July 31. Mr. Wu, who is taking a leave from Columbia, said that to work after that date he would have to request a further leave from the university.

In Mr. Wu's view, which he laid out in a book published last year called The Master Switch, new information technologies follow a predictable cycle in which open and free systems eventually become controlled by a single corporation or cartel. Mr. Wu believes the Internet may follow a similar pattern, as a few companies emerge to dominate key sectors: Google in the online search market, Amazon.com in retail, Apple in digital media and Facebook in social networking.

"There is a sense that the Internet is becoming more consolidated," said Mr. Wu.
Mr. Wu, an offbeat academic who has attended the popular Burning Man festival several times, says the next big technology policy issue is figuring out the rules of the road for these emerging platforms, and that is what he will focus on. "I would be satisfied with getting together the rules for the Internet platform," he said.

It's not entirely clear what sort of rules he's referring to. As I describe at length in my feature on net neutrality in the March issue, the Federal Communications Commission has already slogged through the long process of enacting rules to govern the Internet's core infrastructure. But the Journal's report seems to imply that, in his role at the FTC, Wu will focus on setting up rules to govern the the central players at the edge of the network—big search and content providers like Amazon, Apple, and Google. I guess it's not enough to regulate just one part of the Internet.

Wu makes an appearance in my net neutrality feature, which you can read here. You can also find Adam Thierer's review of Wu's new book, The Master Switch, in the same issue. Thierer's piece isn't online yet, but that's why you should subscribe!

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  1. So, the bona fides for Wu’s being “offbeat” is his attendance at Burning Man?

    1. Maybe Doherty has a shot at advising the FCC then. Or me. Sheesh.

      1. BM itself is surely offbeat. But when I was there in ’00 & ’01 the eccentricity of the attendees was already starting to be diluted by mere spectators. That has only gotten worse since and attendance is hardly a credential of “offbeatness”.

  2. Jeebus on a freakin’ pogo stick.

    They don’t even have jurisdiction over the infrastructure, and it looks like they are going to claim jurisdiction over content?

    If anyone can afford mo’ betta lawyers than the government, its Amazon, Apple, or Google.

    I wonder how the nobs in Silicon Valley feel now about Obama. I wonder, are their panties still wet? Or are they starting to bunch up, just a little?

    1. And here Lenin thought he’d buy the rope to hang the last capitalist from said capitalist. I bet he never dreamed the capitalist would be donating the fucking thing.

  3. The FTC hires a consultant who will tell them to do what they already want to do.

    Oh the surprise.

    1. I suspect that their skivvies actually started to dry a bit after they learned, a year after they elected him, of Obama’s seeming disdain for contract law in the GM and Chrysler take-overs, and of his thoughts on executive compensation.

      1. Maddening reply system here. Reply was to RCDean.

  4. “There is a sense that the Internet is becoming more consolidated,” said Mr. Wu.
    Mr. Wu, an offbeat academic who has attended the popular Burning Man festival several times, says the next big technology policy issue is figuring out the rules of the road for these emerging platforms, and that is what he will focus on. “I would be satisfied with getting together the rules for the Internet platform,” he said.

    Really? Did you predict Facebook when MySpace was dominant? Were you one of the shrieking heads that warned of imminent doom from the Time-Warner-AOL merger? Did you foresee the rise of Google from nothing to 800 lb gorilla? I presume you got in very early on the Netflix IPO, since you knew online streaming would become such a big thing. Obviously, you must have been part of the team that envisioned the iPhone and Android.

    No? You didn’t accurately anticipate any of these dynamic changes? Then kindly fuck off.

    1. We’d like to see a few regulations placed upon the smartphone industry.

    2. But dude, he, like, goes to Burning Man and stuff! He has visions! None of them will come true, of course…

  5. “There is a sense that the Internet is becoming more consolidated,” said Mr. Wu.

    With all due respect, what does that even mean?

    1. It means there are deep pockets for the fleecing and new regulatory powers to be created out of thin air.

      We can’t have these successful companies cattin’ about not knowing who’s the boss, now can we?

      1. Whew. Because of the Burning Man thing I thought it might be like “‘I felt a great disturbance in the Force’, said Obi-Wan.”

    2. “There is a sense that the Internet is becoming more consolidated,” said Mr. Wu.

      With all due respect, what does that even mean?

      A sense. A SENSE, DAMNIT! Don’t you have a sense that it’s true?! You lack vision if you don’t get the sense!

  6. I am guessing he updates his Facebook page regularly and has it synced with Twitter through his iPhone which he uses to find his favorite hip restaurant on Google Maps.

    Wu’s contention of the internet becoming more and more consolidated I is just him projecting his own journey of being a digital sheep.

    1. It’s the same genetic brain defect that makes pundits continuously repeat the notion that our choices in media are becoming fewer and fewer.

  7. open and free systems eventually become controlled by a single corporation or cartel

    Doesn’t he mean that when a company gets large enough to purchase a few congress critters, these critters will enact laws that raise the barrier of entry.

    1. Yeah, and he’s now the critter of the congress-critters’ critters. Or something like that.

  8. Not to worry. Pretty soon some up-start tech company will come along and clean Google or Amazon’s clocks. Then as these behemoths go down the drain they can cry out…”But we’re too big to fail!!” And the FCC will spearhead the push towards a nice big juicy bail-out, because America can’t afford to lose these beacons of American economic might.

  9. In Mr. Wu’s view, which he laid out in a book published last year called The Master Switch, new information technologies follow a predictable cycle in which open and free systems eventually become controlled by a single corporation or cartel. Mr. Wu believes the Internet may follow a similar pattern, as a few companies emerge to dominate key sectors: Google in the online search market, Amazon.com in retail, Apple in digital media and Facebook in social networking.

    CompuServe in online services, AOL Time Warner in internet content provision…

    1. Net Neutrality would have preserved us.

    2. Amen, brother.

    3. Ten years too late, this Net Neutrality thing. We coulda been a contender.

    4. No one even remembers us…

      Imagine what an ounce of regulation could have done to preserve our existence.

    5. To think, we could have dominated the internet world with our 56k dialup modem banks had someone suggested Net Neutrality back in our time.

    6. To think, we could have dominated the internet world with our 56k dialup modem banks had someone suggested Net Neutrality back in our time.

      1. Fucking busy signals! GAH!

        1. I loved when the phone would ring and we’d lose you for a bit.

    7. Don’t forget our no avatar-having social connections. If only the would’ve regulated the bandwidth.

  10. Has anyone noticed how Microsoft is no longer talked about as dominating everything in the tech industry?

    1. Only because of the brave and selfless anti-trust regulators, and years of their litigation, can we say this.

      No, fleeter and better competition has nothing to do with this.

    2. Don’t worry, the feds will be bailing them out some day.

  11. It’s not entirely clear what sort of rules he’s referring to.

    From what he’s said elsewhere, he refers to the kind of rules that will “prolong the benign phase” of Amazon’s, Apple’s, Facebook’s and Google’s “monopolies.” So, a list of big names will trade compliance (and a role in enforcing others’ compliance) for barriers to entry…I guess.

    But I can never make much literal sense of anything Wu says or writes. Every sentence seems like a buzzword with filler and equivocation hanging off it, doing nothing. He sounds like a cunning but dumb guy bluffing his way through a job interview.
    Excuse me. There is a sense that he’s a cunning but dumb guy bluffing his way through a job interview.

  12. From what he’s said elsewhere, he refers to the kind of rules that will “prolong the benign phase” of Amazon’s, Apple’s, Facebook’s and Google’s “monopolies.”

    I’m a little unclear on how a business with dozens of competitors that are exactly as accessible to me as it is can be a “monopoly”.

    1. A monopoly as defined by politicians is any leading entity in a market segment where said politicians cannot conceive of how said leading entity will ever be displaced, lose market share or be supplanted by a new paradigm not yet even thought of.

      This is the way it will always be because I cannot conceive of it being any different. Therefore we must regulate.

      1. I always thought a “monopoly” was an up-and-coming, vibrant business that was currently dedicating its financial resources to growth and investment, rather than campaign contributions.

        I believe that’s how you can measure where Google went from a “promising startup” to a “scary, data-hungry monopoly”.

    2. Yahoo’s search monopoly must be stopped! As must Prodigy’s e-mail monopoly!

      1. I get NO respect…

        1. Pff, ^^this guy…

          He doesn’t know the meaning of “no respect”.

          1. Piss off you little shit!

      2. What did Prodigy ever do for e-mail?

  13. Maybe I’m not reading this correctly…is he saying to keep the internet free we have to have a lot of rules controlling it?

    1. Egypt, a country with strict controls over ISP’s and how they operate, is a case for net neutrality.

      Yes, you’re reading this correctly. More government control will avert government abuse of the internet.

  14. Isn’t it obvious that a regulatory bureaucracy created by elected representatives of a two party state beholden to special interests would produce more market freedom than competition between companies who maintain market share based on the aggregate economic decisions of their potential customers?

    I mean, jeez, if I actually had interrupt my internet service to punish a company with whom’s policies I disagree… what’s free about that?

    /sarcasm

  15. Fuck the FTC.

  16. Stop resisting… stop resisting…

  17. A “good idea” requires 3 things:

    #1. Screwing the other guys.
    #2. ?
    #3. Legal power to enforce #1 & #2.

  18. I have a sense that the feds have a monopoly on bullshit

    1. Then you must be new here.

  19. Can someone explain to me how people can believe that it is legitimate when people force their values on others through the political system as long as enough people agree; however, if enough people support a company that it becomes a monopoly then it is some kind of great injustice?

    Is it merely a utilitarian argument based on the institutional brainwashing that government serves it’s constituents for good whereas businesses exploit their customers for profit? Or is it based on the farce that government is accountable but companies are not? Is it that people assume that government agrees with them and that they stand to benefit so all other considerations go out the window?

    What is it?

    It seems to me that people are worried about fraud, “anti-competitive” practices, and monopoly profits because of the size and market share of large players on the internet. I can understand their concerns. What makes no sense to me is for the solution to have them be regulated by the largest monopoly in the USA which has a history of engaging in fraud and failing to prevent or prosecute private fraud, enacting anti-competitive statutes to favor special interests, and reaping the greatest monopoly profits of all through taxation and monetary policy.

    what the fuck

    1. Can someone explain to me how people can believe that it is legitimate when people force their values on others through the political system as long as enough people agree; however, if enough people support a company that it becomes a monopoly then it is some kind of great injustice?

      Monopolies often rely of government protection.

  20. Threadjack:

    From C4L via Facebook:

    Thanks to your efforts, the House just rejected extending three of the PATRIOT Act’s provisions on tonight’s vote! The fight is only beginning in Congress, but this is a major victory for civil liberties.

    http://www.facebook.com/CampaignforLiberty

    1. WASHINGTON ? In a misstep for the new Republican leadership, the House has rejected legislation to extend for nine months three key surveillance tools that are part of the nation’s post-Sept. 11 anti-terror law.

      The Republicans brought the bill to the floor Tuesday under a procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. But with 26 Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the extension of the USA Patriot Act provisions, the vote was 277-148, seven short of what was needed for passage.

      Interesting language. In a Republican “misstep”, 26 Republicans joined Democrats…

      What’s the breakdown of this vote? Were those 26 Republicans joining Democrats tea party-backed Repubs?

      If so, then the teabaggers might actually be living up to their rhetoric and I would hardly call that a misstep for Republicans.

      1. I would imagine one of those Republican votes was RP.

  21. We’re going to fuck this net thing up, too, ain’t we?

  22. The Internet is doomed. First the FCC, now the FTC. The FUC must be next.

  23. It’s as if this guy has no idea what he’s talking about.

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