Tim Wu, Creator of the Term "Net Neutrality," Joins The FTC

By Tracey E. Schelmetic February 09, 2011

Tim Wu, a proponent of net neutrality who actually coined the phrase, has joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as a senior adviser for consumer protection and competition issues that affect the Internet and mobile phones, writes Nick Bilton on the New York Times “Bits” blog. Wu is currently a law professor at Columbia University. He teaches copyright, communications and criminal law.

According to a press release on Columbia University's Web site, Wu will start in his new position on February 14 in the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, which assists the agency in the development and implementation of long-range competition and consumer protection policy initiatives, and advises staff on cases raising new or complex policy and legal issues. Wu will take a leave of absence from Columbia to serve at the FTC.

“Tim is an incredibly bright and creative thinker and the FTC can never have too deep of a bench,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “Although he may be known for his work on net neutrality, here at the FTC he’ll be working on issues at the nexus of consumer protection, competition, law and technology.”

In addition to his work on net neutrality, Wu is the author of a book, The Master Switch, which was named a best book of 2010 by the New Yorker, Publisher’s Weekly, Fortune, and other publications.

The Master Switch chronicled the eventual consolidation of most information industries, and predicted the same forces would come to influence the Internet markets.

“I think there are critical periods in industry formation where there is a strong need for a public voice,” Wu said. “The FTC’s broad mandate of consumer protection and competition policy makes it an extremely important agency right now.”

“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,” Wu added. “The FTC is the agency at the front line of these issues, which have such obvious effects on how we live our lives.”

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Wu discussed the possibility of a future in which the Internet could be controlled by a few large corporations, like AT&T, Apple, Verizon and Facebook. He warned that these large powerful companies could eventually control the type of content consumers have access to online. He compared that possibility to the situation he said exists with the large companies that own the television, radio and movie industries today.


Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

TechZone360 Contributor

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