A few weeks ago I finished reading “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires” by MIT Professor and outspoken network neutrality advocate Tim Wu. Professor Wu starts with a historical examination of various industries that he considers to be “information industries.” This starts with the telegraph, telephone, movies, radio and television before moving onward to consider the internet.
In each case he traces the evolution of the business, key innovations, notable rivalries, competitive pressures, corporate alliances and government involvement. Each little tale is entertaining and informative on its own, revealing something of the great men and companies of an earlier era.
From this examination of history he points to some key lessons. Some are regulatory mistakes that crippled an entire industry for a generation (FM radio) while protecting an incumbent concern (AM radio.) Others, like early FCC rulings on broadband network access, are moments of wisdom that facilitated unprecedented spurts of innovation.
The lessons from all of these tales he uses to lay out his philosophy on a new regulatory framework for the internet age. This makes the end of the book a lot heavier reading than the historical parts. Even so, I found the book very interesting.
Many thanks to David Frankel of ZipDX for recommending this book. FWIW, while I purchased the hardcover edition, Amazon tells me that a paperback release is pending.