Tim Wu’s grand sweep

as paraphrased Evgeny Morozov.

…The nature of information as a commodity leads, according to Wu, to “information empires”: firms that dominate the industry, marginalize or destroy all competition, and stifle disruptive innovations. Thus AT&T suppressed the development of magnetic tape and with it the answering machine; RCA delayed the takeoff of FM radio; network television broadcasters tried to undermine cable.Most of these companies started as benign and smallish innovators only to end up as giant corporations single-mindedly committed to preserving their market dominance. They also built vertically integrated businesses that, while extremely profitable, were socially harmful. If AT&T hadn’t banned its customers from connecting gadgets to its network, the Internet could have arrived much earlier. But AT&T controlled the networks, offered telephone services, and sold the phone sets. It had no interest in third-party innovations.The open network and unbridled innovation of the last two decades have only been possible, then, because the Internet has been in an early phase in its life story. Today’s Internet innovators have been lucky because real information emperors have been busy elsewhere—fighting wars over the future of print or television. Now that there are many more eyeballs and opportunities online, the situation will change drastically.To head off the emerging threats to openness and thus to innovation, Wu proposes that all firms in the information industry adhere to what he calls the “separations principle,” which would establish “a salutary distance between each of the major functions or layers in the information economy.” Broadly speaking, Wu wants to isolate three parties from each other: those who develop information, those who develop network infrastructure through which information travels, and those who control how information is accessed.

via Boston Review — Evgeny Morozov: Passing Through net neutrality, Tim Wu, Barbara van Schewick.

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