Friday, August 1, 2014

The man who coined 'net neutrality' is running for lt. governor of New York

Columbia's Tim Wu has only been a law professor for 12 years, but he's accomplished a lot during that time. He has contributed frequently to Slatethe New Republicthe New Yorker, and the New York Times, written an influential book, and advised the Federal Trade Commission on internet policy. Oh, and he coined the term network neutrality. Now he's hoping to add another item to his resume: lieutenant governor of New York.

Wu is running alongside Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Last month, Teachout sought the endorsement of New York's Working Families Party. New York's unusual election system allows a candidate to appear on more than one party's line on the ballot, and Governor Andrew Cuomo ran on both the Democratic and Working Families lines in 2010. If the Working Families party had endorsed Teachout this time around, it would have been a rebuke to Cuomo for his centrist policies, and could have siphoned liberal votes away from Cuomo in the 2014 general election.

But after giving Teachout a warm reception at its convention last month, the Working Families Party endorsed Cuomo. So now Teachout is challenging him for the Democratic nomination for governor. And she's recruited Wu to challenge Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul as well. Teachout and Wu fault Hochul for her opposition to giving driver's licenses to unauthorized immigrants.

If Wu wins, he won't be able to do much about the tech policy issues he has focused onover the last decade. Telecom regulation is primarily a federal issue, as are copyright and patent policy. But Wu has hinted that cracking down on Comcast could be on the pair's agenda.

"We think anti-trust policy is important," Wu told Buzzfeed on Friday. "It used to be Standard Oil…now it’s Comcast."

States do have some regulatory authority over utility companies such as Comcast, and state governments can also file antitrust lawsuits. Becoming a thorn in the side of communications incumbents such as Comcast would be consistent with Wu's past work. In a 2010 book, Wu warned that the open architecture of today's internet could be undermined if communications markets became too concentrated.

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