Tim Wu

Biden-Harris Administration Launches Initiative on Junk Fees and Related Pricing Practices

After President Joe Biden called on all agencies to reduce or eliminate hidden fees in September 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action to effectively eliminate billions in banking fees. Fees account for tens of billions of dollars in revenue – a substantial source of revenue in many industries, including transportation, banking, internet, and hospitality.  The CFPB's actions work in tandem with other initiatives

How Google and Amazon Got Away With Not Being Regulated

In the 1990s and 2000s, the web and the internet were new and everything was going to be different forever, and the chaos made it easy to think that bigness—the economics of scale—no longer really mattered in the new economy. After a decade of open chaos and easy market entry, something surprising did happen. A few firms—Google, Facebook, and Amazon—did not disappear. Unfortunately, antitrust law failed to notice that the 1990s were over. Instead, for a decade and counting, it gave the major tech players a pass—even when confronting fairly obvious dangers and anticompetitive mergers. 

The Republican Attack on California

Recently, California passed its own network neutrality laws, to ban blocking and throttling of the internet, as a stand-in for the federal net neutrality rules abandoned by the Trump administration in June. California has obvious reasons to want to protect an open internet: It is the land of the internet’s origin, and a place where tech entrepreneurship has thrived. If the Republican Party actually believed in economic decentralization, it might well accept the premise of state rules where the federal government explicitly disclaims any authority to act.

The case for breaking up Facebook and Instagram

Facebook is widely expected to refashion Instagram into a fully integrated sub-unit of Facebook — which, given Facebook’s record, suggests minimal privacy and maximized advertising. But it’s also clear, in retrospect, that the Instagram acquisition helped reinforce the dominance by Facebook of the social-networking world. A key question has been lost in coverage of the transition: Just why is Facebook in control of Instagram, its greatest natural competitor, in the first place? Isn’t antitrust law supposed to stop companies from buying off their rivals to achieve market dominance?

Antitrust via Rulemaking: Competition Catalysts

Some observers note a decline in competition in American industry; fewer new firms are entering the market, and markets are becoming more concentrated. Federal and state agencies can devise regulations to catalyze competition. Federal and state agencies can use different types of rules to spur competition, including deregulation, which removes rules that discourage new firms, or switching price rules, which makes it easier for consumers to try a new service provider (such as the rule that phone customers can keep their phone number when changing service providers).

Letting Sprint and T-Mobile Merge Is a Terrible Idea

[Commentary] The merits of some mergers make for a close case, but the proposed merger between the mobile carriers Sprint and T-Mobile, which would create a new telecommunications behemoth, is not one of them. Basic economics strongly suggests the proposed combination should be dead on arrival, at least if the nation’s antitrust law still stands for competition and lower prices for consumers.

How the FCC's Net Neutrality Plan Breaks With 50 Years of History

[Commentary] Did Obama really invent net neutrality? Even in a country with famously short attention spans, at least some people might have noticed that net neutrality has been around longer than that. So where did net neutrality come from? How did it get started? What’s now called the “net neutrality debate” is really a restatement of a classic question: How should a network’s owner treat the traffic that it carries? What rights, if any, should a network’s users have versus its owners?

Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality

[Commentary] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai faces a serious legal problem. Because he is killing net neutrality outright, not merely weakening it, he will have to explain to a court not just the shift from 2015 but also his reasoning for destroying the basic bans on blocking and throttling, which have been in effect since 2005 and have been relied on extensively by the entire internet ecosystem. This will be a difficult task. What has changed since 2004 that now makes the blocking or throttling of competitors not a problem?

Why Blocking the AT&T-Time Warner Merger Might Be Right

[Commentary] The prospect of a president using antitrust law to punish political opponents is deeply disturbing. So when news emerged this week that the Justice Department had said that Time Warner or AT&T would have to sell properties like CNN or DirecTV before the department would approve their merger, it was widely taken as Mr. Trump’s revenge against CNN, the news network he loves to hate. It seemed to fit a classic “dirty tricks” narrative.

But should we so quickly conclude that the Justice Department is doing something wrong? Maybe not.

How Twitter Killed the First Amendment

[Commentary] In this age of “new” censorship and blunt manipulation of political speech, where is the First Amendment? Americans like to think of it as the great protector of the press and of public debate. Yet it seems to have become a bit player, confined to a narrow and often irrelevant role. It is time to ask: Is the First Amendment obsolete? If so, what can be done? These questions arise because the jurisprudence of the First Amendment was written for a different set of problems in a very different world.