Tim Wu Now with the FTC: Speculation about His Impact

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on April 7, 2011


Tim Wu, Columbia law professor, author of “The Master Switch,” and recent appointee to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has information industries (see “Why Tim Wu's Advising the FTC is Bad for Google” and “Should Business Fear Tim Wu’s FTC Appointment?”) and academics (see “Tim Wu to the FTC: What does it mean?”) alike speculating about where he will focus his energies now that he is a senior advisor with the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning. This branch of the FTC develops and implements long-range competition and consumer protection policies.

When his appointment was announced, Wu was quoted in The Hill:


The Internet platform has given rise to new and hard problems of privacy, data retention, deceptive advertising, billing practices, standard-setting and vertical foreclosure just to name a few. The FTC is the agency at the front line of these issues, which have such obvious effects on how we live our lives.

Two recent articles explore Wu’s thoughts about the internet, net neutrality, and what information companies he believes are becoming monopolistic –which, as he shows in his recent book, could lead to the internet being ruled by one corporate leviathan in possession of 'the master switch.'

Tim Wu Tries to Save the Internet

In this Chronicle Review article from March 20th, Marc Perry interviews Tim Wu and examines his professional path in hopes of answering the question: what might change now that Tim Wu has some power to directly shape government policy?

Below are a few quotes from Tim Wu that Perry sprinkles in the article:

Shortly before Wu joined the FTC, he said his goal in joining it was to help "reinvigorate the role of a public counterforce to private power. I would hope to instigate or encourage a look at industries I'm particularly familiar with, like the information industries, and see what it would mean to have meaningful oversight over those."

In closing:

We may look back at this era, the last 15, 20 years, as that early utopian, exciting era of the open Internet. I've been happy to be alive during the Internet revolution. And I hope I will not live to see its death.

CMD & CTRL: Motherboard Meets Tim Wu: On Net Neutrality, Information Empires and Freedom

In this video interview with Alex Pasternack and Motherboard, posted on March 14, 2011 (though taped in November 2010), Wu argues that we (human beings) are not free. AT&T’s recent announcement to purchase T-Mobile USA – and the merging of content outlets by companies that provide internet access, as in the case of the Comcast-NBC merger and the sale of The Huffington Post to AOL – point to familiar territory according to Wu.

Here are a few quotes from the interview:

Human will is involved. Human will fears decay. And so it turns its powers into trying to make things feel better or improve. That’s why technology is always improving, because it’s a product of human will.

The greatest danger comes from the union of transportation and content. When the people who move stuff are also the people who own the content, you have an inherent conflict of interest. And you have an inherent possibility for censorship.

Information is invisible so sometimes it seems less important than food. But it is what ultimately shapes the tenor of an era. It ultimately shapes how we get food, prevent war, it underlies everything. Free speech, censorship, control are some of the most important things about being human. And we at some level are fundamentally tool-using creatures. Today our tools are phones, laptops, internet apps. And if we don’t control those, we are not free.

Watch the full interview: CMD & CTRL: Motherboard Meets Tim Wu: On Net Neutrality, Information Empires and Freedom