The Blue and White newspaper at Columbia University has done a nice profile of Tim Wu, the pioneering communications scholar who championed the cause of Net Neutrality back when no one was talking about it. Now of course Tim is a minor celebrity in the net activist community. But four years ago, he was virtually a lone voice in the academy trying to raise awareness of the issue:
Back in 2003, when Wu presented at the conference in Boulder,
no one was listening. "I got up there and I was completely on a
different track than anyone else," Wu said. "And I was a junior member,
so I thought maybe I should be talking about what everyone else is
talking about. In retrospect it was the right thing to do." Everyone
clapped politely, and the paper was quickly forgotten.
Luckily the paper found its way to the desk of FCC Commission chair Michael Powell, who subsequently incorporated it into what he called the "four fundamental internet freedoms." And so his new career as net neutrality champion began.
It’s great to see an academic-activist successfully walking the tightrope between the academy and the political sphere. Having seen Tim in action in Memphis at the National Conference on Media Reform, I can attest that he can both lecture knowledgeably about the technical and political considerations surrounding Network Neutrality as well as galvanize and inspire hundreds of grassroots activists to action on this important civil rights issue. That’s a killer combination.