Tim Wu’s “Mother-May-I” World of Net Neutrality Regulation

by on July 30, 2008 · 21 comments

Tim Wu has an absurd piece in today’s New York Times comparing America’s broadband marketplace to OPEC. This really is quite outrageous, beginning with the fact that OPEC is a GOVERNMENT-RUN cartel. Wu also had a comment in the Washington Post today saying that he didn’t think broadband metering was an outrage. Well, that’s nice. I’m happy that we have Tim’s permission to experiment with new business models for financing broadband networks going forward!

This is indicative of what we can expect in the future once Net neutrality laws get on the books: A world of incessant “Mother may I?” permission-based forms of preemptive Internet regulation. Tim and his radical band of regulatory advocates over at Free Press will incessantly petition the FCC to review each and every business model decision and encourage the unelected bureaucrats at the agency to manage the Internet to their heart’s content.

And what does Tim offer for an alternative vision of the way the world should work since he doesn’t believe private markets can handle the job? Well, it’s back to the Big Government drawing board for more tax-spend-and-subsidize solutions! “Amsterdam and some cities in Utah have deployed their own fiber to carry bandwidth as a public utility,” he says. Yeah, that’s the promised land. After all, it’s working out soooooo well at the municipal level. Please.

  • http://CoreInnovationneedsboost Mike Wendy

    I think Tim is correct in at least one regard – alternatives (more) are good. And, though I don’t think he uses the magic words, broadband wireless in the so-called “White Spaces” does hold immense promise for one such alternative – if only the FCC could get the frequencies approved for use more quickly.

    The OPEC hyperbole is a poke in the eye – red meat for the NY Times (and the Free Pressers, and the MoveOn.Orgs and the Soros-wannabes, etc.).

  • http://sarahdavies.cc Sarah Davies

    I don’t know how your doublespeak took Wu’s pro-free market op-ed and blurred it into tax and spend liberalism (personal grudge?). Deregulating and opening up the market to new business models should include community-based business models. Nonprofits and community groups often solve problems better than for profit companies, even on a municipal level. Perhaps this hasn’t worked yet in the realm of broadband because we allow government subsidized private ownership of the lines instead of allowing the public to decide how to use the lines in their own best interest? Companies don’t exist to solve problems, they exist to make money, which often (especially in the case of monopolistic broadband) requires solving problems in such a way as to minimize public good.

  • Mike Wendy

    I think Tim is correct in at least one regard – alternatives (more) are good. And, though I don’t think he uses the magic words, broadband wireless in the so-called “White Spaces” does hold immense promise for one such alternative – if only the FCC could get the frequencies approved for use more quickly.

    The OPEC hyperbole is a poke in the eye – red meat for the NY Times (and the Free Pressers, and the MoveOn.Orgs and the Soros-wannabes, etc.).

  • http://sarahdavies.cc Sarah Davies

    I don’t know how your doublespeak took Wu’s pro-free market op-ed and blurred it into tax and spend liberalism (personal grudge?). Deregulating and opening up the market to new business models should include community-based business models. Nonprofits and community groups often solve problems better than for profit companies, even on a municipal level. Perhaps this hasn’t worked yet in the realm of broadband because we allow government subsidized private ownership of the lines instead of allowing the public to decide how to use the lines in their own best interest? Companies don’t exist to solve problems, they exist to make money, which often (especially in the case of monopolistic broadband) requires solving problems in such a way as to minimize public good.

  • http://www.manifestdensity.net Tom

    “Amsterdam and some cities in Utah have deployed their own fiber to carry bandwidth as a public utility,” he says.

    Not only that — some of these bastions of socialism publicly finance tracts of asphalt for collective use by their citizens. Outrageous! Why not just let people drive where they want and let the market sort it out!?

    Seriously: it’s long past time for us to start treating the pipes that carry our bits in the same manner we treat the pipes that carry our water. There are reasons to doubt the viability of muni wifi as currently conceived, but the CLEC model is hardly without its problems.

  • Adam Thierer

    Ms. Davies… First, I certainly have no personal grudge against Tim. In fact, we get along quite well when we are together debating these issues. But we do have passionate disagreements about these issues because of our very different world views.

    Specifically, while I feel local governments should be free to experiment with public investment strategies for broadband expansion, I have little faith in their success in this fast-moving area. Broadband is not water, sewage, roads or garbage collection. It is a rapidly evolving technology that I believe can and should be provided by private vendors precisely because the market is going to be upended ever few years and we don’t want taxpayers on the line for the tab when things don’t pan out.

    Finally, the OPEC analogy just doesn’t hold. There is no government-enforced cartel here and it’s outrageous to make that connection.

  • http://www.manifestdensity.net Tom

    “Amsterdam and some cities in Utah have deployed their own fiber to carry bandwidth as a public utility,” he says.

    Not only that — some of these bastions of socialism publicly finance tracts of asphalt for collective use by their citizens. Outrageous! Why not just let people drive where they want and let the market sort it out!?

    Seriously: it’s long past time for us to start treating the pipes that carry our bits in the same manner we treat the pipes that carry our water. There are reasons to doubt the viability of muni wifi as currently conceived, but the CLEC model is hardly without its problems.

  • Adam Thierer

    Ms. Davies… First, I certainly have no personal grudge against Tim. In fact, we get along quite well when we are together debating these issues. But we do have passionate disagreements about these issues because of our very different world views.

    Specifically, while I feel local governments should be free to experiment with public investment strategies for broadband expansion, I have little faith in their success in this fast-moving area. Broadband is not water, sewage, roads or garbage collection. It is a rapidly evolving technology that I believe can and should be provided by private vendors precisely because the market is going to be upended ever few years and we don’t want taxpayers on the line for the tab when things don’t pan out.

    Finally, the OPEC analogy just doesn’t hold. There is no government-enforced cartel here and it’s outrageous to make that connection.

  • Jamalystic

    But how can we archieve this projected broadband penetration if governement is not directly involved because it seems the ISPs would have no interest in doing that. Here is a piece that back Tim’s analysis: FTTH: Coming From a Government Near You(http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=561&doc_id=148317&F_src=flftwo)

  • Jamalystic

    But how can we archieve this projected broadband penetration if governement is not directly involved because it seems the ISPs would have no interest in doing that. Here is a piece that back Tim’s analysis: FTTH: Coming From a Government Near You(http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=561&doc_id=148317&F_src=flftwo)

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