Speed Reads

Net neutrality

How a strip club unwittingly helped develop the idea of net neutrality


Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu is generally credited as having popularized the notion of net neutrality over the past decade. And in an interesting story about him in The New York Times, Jeff Sommer reveals an unlikely source of inspiration for Wu's work: an Atlanta strip club.

That's not to say the seedy establishment sparked some sort of epiphany about web freedom, but rather that a visit Lu did not take there steered him toward his future work. As Sommer explains, Lu spent the early 2000s working for a Silicon Valley startup that sold large routers capable of squelching or prioritizing web traffic; China was big on the technology. But when Lu's colleagues suggested they all hit a strip club in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, he realized he needed to find a more meaningful pursuit.

"I wondered how I'd gotten there," he told the Times. "I realized that what we'd been doing all those months was abhorrent."

Lu ultimately got back in touch with an old Harvard professor, Lawrence Lessig, who advised him to write a paper about his musings on web freedom. The paper's title: A Proposal for Network Neutrality.

Read the whole profile here.