Shop Costumes Learn more nav_sap_plcc_6M_fly_beacon $5 Albums All-New Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote Beauty Videos Introducing Handmade New Kitchen Scale from AmazonBasics Amazon Gift Card Offer redoaks redoaks redoaks  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Voyage AutoRip in CDs & Vinyl Shop Now STEM Toys & Games

Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$12.30+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(2 star).show all reviews
27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2011
The great thing about prophecy is the prophet cannot lose, regardless of his prediction. If his doom-and-gloom prediction comes true, the prophet can rightly say "I told you so". If instead, disaster is averted, the prophet can claim his warning put us on the right path.

So what to make of Wu's latest tome? After 300 pages of doom-and-gloom leading up to the climax, Wu hedges his bets and makes no prediction either way. He suggests the "Separations Principle" as a way to preserve the openness of the Internet but then like a wide receiver going over the middle, pulls his arms in and ducks the ultimate prediction -- does Wu think the Internet will fall to the "Cycle" or not? Don't be fooled by Wu's statement "why the Internet will be different". A careful reading reveals he's not convinced that it WILL be different, only that it CAN be different, if only the government imposes his "Separations Principle".

As you know, Wu coined the term "Net Neutrality" in the early 2000s. He wrote his book before the FCC's December, 2010 net neutraility decision (which will be appealed as soon as the rules are published in the Federal Register). That should please him. But the last time the FCC ordered net neutrality (in the Comcast decision), the DC Circuit struck down the decision. But I digress.

Wu spins an elegant story. But I'm no expert in movies, television, radio, or cable. So it's hard to know just how accurate he is in describing the "Cycle" as applied to those industries. But I know a little bit about the history of telephony. If Wu's accuracy (or lack thereof) in his telephone chapters is representative of the book as a whole, I have to doubt some of his conclusions.

Take chapter 18 for example ("The Return of AT&T"). On page 246, he accuses SBC of a series of nefarious deeds, but one will look in vain in the end-notes for a reference to ANY of them (I'm not saying that SBC is innocent, just that it would be nice to have references so the reader can decide for himself). At the bottom of the page, he cites the Trinko case as an example of the courts allowing the free markets to work at the expense of competition. The Trinko decision says nothing of the sort -- essentially, SCOTUS decided in Trinko that the 1996 Telecommunications Act governed behavior between carriers and that there had been no anti-trust violation. And while the Court didn't cite lack of standing per se, its clear to anyone reading the decision that AT&T, if it were truly harmed by Verizon's behaviour, should have brought the suit, not a customer of AT&T.

On p247, Wu cites SBC opposition to the "line-sharing" provisions of the '96 Telecom Act. Again Wu gives no reference, so it's hard to know exactly what he means. In the telephone business, the term "line-sharing" has a very specific meaning (it means resale or leasing of DSL). If Wu means the telcos opposed leasing their voice lines to competitors, then he is wrong. Incumbent telcos had to do this in order to enter the long-distance business. If instead, Wu is referring to leasing DSL to competitors, he would be correct. But of course, he fails to mention that nothing in the '96 Act requires incumbents to lease DSL to competitors.

In a footnote at p247, Wu refers to the FCC eliminating the "platform" sharing requirement, at the suggestion of the DC Court. Again, Wu fails to mention that the '96 Act does not require incumbents to lease a "platform" to competitors. The Act requires incumbents to lease switching capacity, access lines, and computer systems ("OSS"). The Court overruled the FCC and rightly so, but you'd never know it just by reading Wu's account.

All this is to say Wu goes to great lengths to paint incumbent telcos and AT&T in the worst possible light to support his theory of the Cycle. Anyone versed in telephone history can see the bias in Wu's presentation. As one not so versed in the history of film, radio, TV and cable, I have to wonder if evidence of Wu's bias is so apparent in other sections of his book.

Disclosure: I used to work for SBC and AT&T, but I no longer do (in fact, AT&T/SBC involuntarily "downsized" me three years ago so I have no reason to defend them). My opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the position of any employer, past or present.

© Copyright Fred Goodwin, April 17, 2011
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2013
I am interested in Internet, net neutrality, etc. So I bought the audio book. It just put me into sleep every time. :) I guess I just do not enjoy the ancient history of telecommunication. The book may not be bad, but just not for me. This is a message for others with similar interests.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2014
An informative if not very deep look at history, with a simplistic binary model and much adulation of Google‚ views hardly well defended by a weak "that's unfair!" counterargument to Evgeny Morozov's vastly more realistic and critical take on the Internet. Contains gushing praise for Google's proprietary algorithm (which is readily gamed by spammers, and practically requires public shaming for Google to fix any flaws), and a shockingly risible claim that Google "owns almost nothing: no movies, no websites"—no websites? Google is a website! And how is YouTube not a website? These are significant websites. Please. Likewise, Google has plenty of content—let me ask, what exactly is in all those, ahem, "lavishly cpacious Gmail accounts"? Certainly nothing that they mine in order to show advertisements, I would imagine?

Read it for the informative history of corporate backstabbery and machinations, if you find such antics interesting, though "Don't Be Credulous" would be a good operating banner to work under.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
13 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The central thesis of this book is that all great innovations are eventually expropriated by monopolies. Moreover, Mr. Wu suggests that this will inevitably happen to the flow of information. Unfortunately, while Mr. Wu has held a series of prestigious positions as a law professor and as a policy advisor on these issues, it seems Mr. Wu has had little or no training in economics. In particular, he does not seem to understand the logic of monopolies. Sure, natural monopolies will arise in the face of increasing returns to scale and economies of scale. This can indeed stifle innovation, but there is no evidence that this is the case with the flow of information. Rather than providing evidence to the effect that the economic structure of the information industry justifies the conclusions of the book, the book is mostly a rambling series of irrelevant anecdotes and analogies that are not really appropriate the argument at hand. Sure, parts of the book are well written and entertaining, but when all is said and done, it is simply not convincing.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2011
By careful manipulation of his narrative, Wu gets us to the point that Microsoft beat Apple because they were for open access and freedom while Apple wasn't (ignoring IBM's role and history and overlooking such inconveniences as Netscape). We now stand at a crossroads between freedom and creativity (Google and Verizon) and monopolistic hegemony (Apple, AT&T and Hollywood). Only net neutrality will save us. If you must read this, buy a used copy. Otherwise, the author would be embarrassed. You see, information wants to be free. That's why property owners, such as AT&T, are craven villains and freeloaders, such as Google, are the heroes. Wu even rags on Locke and Jefferson for their advocacy of property rights for individuals, all the while professing his respect for individual initiative. Why do creative people do what they do? For their fellow man, of course. He even has Google Evangelist Cerf inventing TCP/IP because it embodied net neutrality. Pathetic. This book starts with an interesting history and then devolves into a hopeless polemic. Not worth the read.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2013
trying to work through it-very dry reading but will keep nipping away, a few pages at a time-next to the toilet
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
19 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2010
Reading Tim Wu's The Master Switch, one can't help but conjecture the author and Columbia University professor looks under his bed each night to ensure no transactions are taking place wherein one party actually derives a profit. If they are, he cries "Monopoly!" in the same way a frightened child would cry out for his mother in the middle of the night.

Perhaps in his childhood he was terrified by a man with a handlebar mustache wearing a monocle and top hat.

By contrast, I respectfully assert that every time a company succeeds against unfettered competition and government regulation, an angel gets its wings. I know it's a stretch, but it makes more sense to me than dropping the "M" bomb whenever a company gains a competitive advantage.

Views Business as Crass

In The Master Switch, Wu attempts to bring perspective to the last 150 years of information and telecommunications history by documenting missed opportunities, shortsightedness, genius, and, yes, frequent failings of acumen displayed by the giants of telegraph, telephony, film, radio, television, and the Internet. In every instance, Wu argues the innovative geniuses at the heart of each technological revolution pandered to the lowest common denominator of a crass American public in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

According to Wu, when a business succeeds where its competitor does not, it's because the rules weren't fair and the public is oblivious to the evils perpetuated upon them .He simply presupposes the success of any particular business is the result of nefarious processes.

Yet competition, by its very nature, guarantees one party will rise above its opponents--if only temporarily, until something, someone, some better service, some better product--knocks it off its perch. This is what the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter meant when he labeled the process "creative destruction"--not, as Wu would have it, a glass-half-empty philosophy turning all-American towns into ugly dystopias.

As Frank Capra's Mary Bailey might've put it: "Trouble is, Professor Wu, we're still in Bedford Falls, and you think we're in Potterville."

Remedies for Chicanery

Certainly the nation's past is full of business and political chicanery. The first is best handled by allowing the market, clearly understandable law, a light regulatory touch, and, as last resort, the courts to rectify the ills. The latter, however, is truly a breach of the trust a public places in its elected officials and their respective appointees.

Even Wu acknowledges government-instituted barriers of entry, detailing, for example, how the Federal Communications Commission protected the Bell telephone "monopoly" by playing devil's handmaiden to its persecution of the Hush-a-Phone company between 1948 ad 1956.

The small company, Wu explains, developed and marketed a "silencer" consumers could attach to telephone handsets to ensure increased privacy from potential eavesdroppers. AT&T threatened customers contemplating the purchase and use of Hush-a-Phone with termination of their telephone service on the grounds the device violated a federal tariff. Wu writes, "In 1950 the FCC decided to hold a trial (officially a `public hearing') in Washington, D.C., to consider whether AT&T, the nation's regulated monopolist, could punish its customers for placing a plastic cup over their telephone mouthpiece" (p. 110).

Favoritism Toward AT&T

The FCC, Wu writes, sat on the case for five years before deciding for AT&T. The Washington DC Court of Appeals reversed the FCC's decision, reproached the commission for taking five years to render a determination, and affirmed a customer's "right reasonably to use his telephone in ways which are privately beneficial without being publicly detrimental" (p. 123). Astute readers may recognize the parallels from this past April when the same court ruled the FCC had no authority to impose network neutrality on cable and broadband provider Comcast.

AT&T is too easily depicted as the Mr. Potter in Wu's Capraesque melodrama, abetted by the FCC as doddering Uncle Billy intent on defending its initial protectionist role. Poor George Bailey is played by Hush-a-Phone's Henry Tuttle, the little man vindicated by Court of Appeals angel Clarence.

What Wu fails to grasp, however, is had the government not bestowed its noncompetitive regulatory blessings upon AT&T in the first place, Hush-a-Phone just might've been Ernie Bishop, the successful Bedford Falls cab driver. When Uncle Billy shows up three-pints in, nothing but mischief can result, including stifled investment, job creation, and technical innovation wrought by regulatory uncertainty.

Market Realities, Government Intrusion

We're not just talking about the Bedford Falls Savings and Loan here, folks.

Wu acknowledges this in his discussion of the Taft administration's investigation of AT&T practices: "We see for the first time something that will occur again and again in the state's calculated exercise of discretion over whether to bless or destroy the monopoly power, deciding in effect what industry it will allow to be dominated."

In short: Government assumes the power to select winners and losers in the marketplace, ostensibly under the guise of leveling the playing field. But the playing field can never be level. There's always an earlier riser, a faster gun, better long-distance service, and better advertising and product placement, plus the gamechanging elements economists call externalities, over which players often possess little or no control.

That's the reality of market competition, not monopoly, Professor Wu. And it's truly a wonderful life.

Walker is managing editor of The Heartland Institute's Infotech & Telecom News.
66 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Customers who viewed this also viewed
Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet
Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum (Paperback - May 28, 2013)

Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson (Hardcover - March 9, 2010)


Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.