Tim Wu, the Columbia Law School prof who coined the term “net neutrality” and current senior adviser at the FTC, was profiled in a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. He quickly comes off just a bit too cute for his own good, ticking off every box on the hipster checklist – tattoos, vintage Hondas, Burning Man, honeymoon in Antarctica. All this and a Harvard law degree. Clearly this is a guy who thinks big thoughts. Well, yes, and it’s those thoughts that seem so dangerous.
The article tells us that in his book The Master Switch, “Wu warns that ‘an unprecedented potential is building for centralized control over what Americans see and hear.’” Wu then goes on to make a case for that potential to be realized in the federal government. He says “his goal in joining [the FTC] was to help ‘reinvigorate the role of a public counterforce to private power.’” Later, as the article describes a class Wu is teaching at MIT, it says he suggests that “in theory, the government could say, ‘Well, this company has clearly shown it’s corrupt. … So let’s just nationalize their source code.’”
When it comes to advocacy of government power, statements like these speak for themselves. They should also give supporters of net neutrality pause when the concept’s father is seen to be arguing less for an open Internet, and more over just who should control it.