The Other Timothy B. Lee

This is just disgraceful.  A guy named Timothy B. Lee published an Op-Ed on net neutrality reiterating the telecom positioning, and claiming that the market for broadband services is competitive.  It is not.  Timothy B. Lee sounds an awful lot like Tim Berners Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web and strong net neutrality proponent.  And Timothy B. Lee comes from the 'Show-Me Institute', a fake think tank that defends the teaching of Intelligent Design and is funded by corporate interests and foundations with a right-wing ideological slant.  As a 501(c)3, they don't have to release their donor list, but you can get a sense of who they are from reading the bios on the Board of Directors page.

Ok, so the corporatists dug up a shill from an ideologically oriented corporate funded think tank, had this guy write an Op-Ed rehashing fake arguments about competitiveness and broadband, and weirdly enough, his name sound almost exactly like world-reknowned expert Tim Berners Lee, who takes the opposite position.

And where was this Op-Ed published?

The New York Times.

Congratulations, grey lady, you should be proud of yourself.

Update: Timothy B. Lee himself defends the teaching of Intelligent Design, not just the think tank. And here's a picture of him. Pretty hilarious.

Update again: Timothy B. Lee got all into a snit over this post. Apparently, it's all just an honest mistake. He had he name Timothy B. Lee when he was born, you see. It's not his fault that his Op-Ed was placed on the most valuable piece of opinion real estate in the world, even though this seems to be one of his first public statements in a heated debate that's been going on for four or five months with many famous people involved on both sides. It's just an accident that the New York Times happened to print an Op-Ed on technology issues from someone whose claim to credibility is that he's widely cited, and whose name just happens to sound just like a legendary figure who invented the World Wide Web. Surely this confusion is not at all intended, as it would only serve to help the telecom companies and Lee believes in a fair public discourse, not one clouded by misinformation.

I was also unfair to Timothy B. Lee's defense of teaching Intelligent Design. In his piece on education policy, another area where Lee passes the Colbert credibility test as a policy expert, he curiously he leaves out his personal opinion that Intelligent Design is nonsense and speaks in well-understood code to the ID promoting crowd.
The dispute in Kansas isn't ultimately about the merits of the theory of evolution, or whether all the alternatives are, as opponents argue, based on religious faith. The bigger fight is about who gets to impose their beliefs on whom.

Wow, belief versus belief, who is right? Who knows, it's all relative in fake libertarian land?!? Oh wait, I have to apologize again, since that's not what he personally believes, it's only what he wrote down. My mistake. I was confusing Timothy B. Lee for someone who panders to a right-wing donor base.

Update again: I'm also sorry I found his picture hilariously creepy. My bad. Don't laugh at it, admire it. It is almost the face of the man who invented the World Wide Web.

Final update: I don't really care about Timothy B. Lee one way or the other. I'm stupified by the New York Times Op-Ed Editors, who have apparently decided that it's their job to cut and paste any random submission from a 'think tank'. Or maybe there just aren't editors anymore, it's all just interns due to cost-cutting.

Actual final update: Tim sent me an email - he does have a record of blogging about this topic, though I have been following the debate fairly carefully and hadn't noticed him as an important or relevant participant. I did a Google News search and looked through his archives on the Show-Me Institute.

Tags: net neutrality, Ted Stevens, telecom, Tim Berners Lee (all tags)



Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

"Timothy B. Lee sounds an awful lot like Tim Berners Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web and strong net neutrality proponent."

I assume you mean net neutrality oppnent?

by Valatan 2006-08-03 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

and then I misspell opponent.

by Valatan 2006-08-03 08:26AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

What?  Berners-Lee opposes net neutrality?  Link?

by scientician 2006-08-03 08:41AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

No, he really is a proponent of net neutrality.

by scientician 2006-08-03 08:49AM | 0 recs
Timothy J. Berners-Lee (Sir Tim) v. Timothy B. Lee

Tim Berners-Lee has made many public statements in support of Net Neutrality legislation. He has spoken on NPR, on his blog, and to Adam Cohen of the NYT in the Editorial Observer column on 28 May.

I would encourage you to write a polite letter to the editor at NYT to ask for clarification in the bio of Mr. Lee to indicate that he is NOT the inventor of the Web. We are doing the same here.

Many thanks,


by w3cjdaly 2006-08-03 09:36AM | 0 recs
Suppose there were competitveness broadband.

If your ISP disciminates against certain websites, and they're slower but you don't know why, you don't have enough information to switch.

The free market only works when consumers are informed.

AT&T has no intention of telling the public which websites it has put into the slow lane and which it has put into the fast lane if we get rid of "Net Neutrality."

The public will be in the dark as AT&T laughs all the way to the bank, extorting website owners and giving a rotten deal to its subscribers.

by EricJaffa 2006-08-03 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Suppose there were competitveness

The real problem is that Broadband is not a true "market" in the pure capitalist sense.

Competition is hampered by the need for such massive infrastructure in the form of wires, to every neighbourhood and house serviced.

If switching ISPs was as easy as switching soft-drinks, then yes, ISPs that favoured only large corporations willing to pay would suffer as users switched to others with no restrictions.

As it stands, for the existing Broadband ISPs, there's too little incentive for them to compete that way - much easier to compete for Google and IBM's money for better web site access.  

In any case, even in a good competitive non-monopolistic market pretty much every ISP would do some traffic shaping - in a purist sense it would still be a loss for the principle of free and open internets.  I want my tubes equal access.

by scientician 2006-08-03 08:47AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

I noticed he slams you on his web page at, without the decency to even link to you to argue. Might want to post over there.

by mykej 2006-08-03 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

Tim Lee writes at

"Also, for the record, I think the theory of intelligent design is nonsense, but I'm not so arrogant as to believe I'm entitled to dictate to other parents what they teach their children." 40349.php

I agree with that sentence, but intelligent design has no more place in a public school classroom than astrology.

by Jim Lippard 2006-08-03 09:24AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee's argument looks better than most of the arguments I've seen from Matt Stoller--I don't see any obvious errors of fact about technology or law, which are frequent (and never corrected) in your writings, Matt.  (And from what I've seen at, Tim Lee has a much better grasp of the issues and expresses himself more lucidly than you do.)

Your rebuttal is to accuse him of somehow trying to mislead people into thinking he's Tim Berners-Lee, to make fun of his photograph, to call him a corporate shill, and to state without evidence that there is no competition in broadband services (my experience, in Phoenix, suggests the contrary).  It seems to me that you're displaying the characteristics of someone without the facts on your side (or at least, without them at your disposal).

by Jim Lippard 2006-08-03 09:37AM | 0 recs
That op-ed is ridiculous.

TIMOTHY B. LEE writes:
Last fall, the chief executive of AT&T, Ed Whitacre, argued that Internet giants like Google and Microsoft should begin paying for access to his "pipes"-- never mind that consumers already pay AT&T for the bandwidth they use to gain access to these services. If broadband providers like AT&T were to begin blocking or degrading the content and services of companies that didn't pay up, both consumers and the Internet would suffer.

But enforcing such a "pay to play" scheme might be more challenging than Mr. Whitacre suspects. As every music-downloading student knows, there are myriad ways to evade Internet filtering software.

If AT&T puts into the slow lane any traffic from websites which don't pay a new fee, website owners will suffer.  That is why AT&T can extort those websites to pay it new fees without "Net Neutrality."

TIMOTHY B. LEE implies it's fine if visitors to have to seek out new ways to get a decent connection like someone interested in pirated music searching for it.

Give me the internet we have over that awful alternative he envisions without "Net Neutrality."

by EricJaffa 2006-08-03 10:03AM | 0 recs
The Other Timothy B. Lee separated at birth

He reminds me of someone . . .
Maybe they just have the same Barber, or the both have their mommies cut their hair. ads/2006/07/jason_mattera1.jpg

by TimO 2006-08-03 10:28AM | 0 recs
Not who I thought of

This is what came to mind for me

by beemer 2006-08-03 12:30PM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

Are you kidding me?  A guy has a name you find confusing and therefore he's not allowed to blog or write op-eds on this topic?  And what on earth is the point of making fun of the way he looks?  How does mocking his picture do anything to further your argument?  

Disclaimer: Timothy B. Lee is a personal friend of mine.  I've known him for years.  He is not a creationist nor a wingnut. I don't agree with him politically (he's a small l libertarian, I'm a big D Democrat), which he's well aware of.  This is my first post at MyDD, but I've been an active Kossack since 2003.  May contain material unsuitable for children.  

by kaelamantis 2006-08-03 02:49PM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

Don't take this personally.  Tim is a propagandist.  He might be your friend, but that's what he is.

by Matt Stoller 2006-08-03 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

Wow, talk about pot-and-kettle.  If he's a propagandist, you must be a demagogue (in the Mencken sense).

by Jim Lippard 2006-08-03 06:28PM | 0 recs

How could a small l libertarian support packet discrimination?

Part of the problem, of course, is that corporatists slap the libertarian label onto themselves as cover, like the old "classic liberal" dodge.  Real libertarians believe in things like confiscatory estate taxes and breakups of oligopolies, because wealth concentration and monopolies inhibit free market competition.

by jayackroyd 2006-08-04 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Huh?!?

Net neutrality is an easy libertarian issue: Free market vs. government regulation. No one has ever proposed packet "discrimination" - even the worst case scenarios cited by net neutrality advocates are nothing more than raising the price for packet delivery. Libertarians would argue that it's a free market problem, and that the free market will sort it out.

by WADem 2006-08-04 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Huh?!?

It is NOT a free market problem. There is no free market among either the backbone providers or those delivering services to consumers.  I have two broadband choices as a consumer my cable company (a local monopoly) or my phone company (another local monopoly).  Even though my DSL provider is not verizon, verizon owns the copper that delivers my packets, and can do whatever it wants to them.  Those packets travel on their copper and can be controlled by them. There's no free market here.

by jayackroyd 2006-08-04 11:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Huh?!?

"There is no free market among either the backbone providers or those delivering services to consumers."

How do you figure, re backbone providers?  That's a highly competitive market--bandwidth is pretty much a commodity, with pricing driven downward by tier-2 IP transit providers like Cogent.

by Jim Lippard 2006-08-06 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

Yeah, yeah, it's bad form, but let's face it, the guy's a Changeling: he's Security Chief Odo's son, right?

by spankme 2006-08-03 05:43PM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

So instead of debating the points of his op-ed you're slamming him personally?  August making you lazy already, Matt?

Try reading the article Mr. Lee wrote.  You might learn a thing or two.

by ThinkAboutIt 2006-08-04 06:28AM | 0 recs
TBL aside

Like Matt, I was pretty much taken aback by the piece.  I was very surprised to see the Times run a completely counterfactual op-ed on the issue.  The underlying premise--that the internet has ever been or will ever be unregulated--is just so utterly incorrect that it boggled my little mind to see it in print in the newspaper of record.  At least when David Brooks makes up his fake people, he does it in the open, but this piece just flat out lied.

As I was reading the op-ed, in my head I saw the guy from Amazon in his debate with McCurry (which I watched on, but can't find now).  The Amazon guy held up Snowe-Dorgan (two pages) and the then current telecom bill (40 pages or so) and suggested that maybe the regulatory burden of the telecom bill might be a tad bit heavier.

by jayackroyd 2006-08-04 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: TBL aside

The point is that adding more regulation to the internet is a bad idea.  Did you not catch Senator Stevens' little tirade a few weeks back?  You want to give him the power to change the face of the internet forever?  

Personally, I think that'd be akin to handing the keys to the drunkest guy at the party and hoping he's the safest ride home.  

The Hands Off The Internet coalition is against regulation, just like Mr. Lee.  We feel that consumers have far more effective tools to keep the internet running the way we want it to, and I've yet to find a reason to believe otherwise.

by ThinkAboutIt 2006-08-04 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: TBL aside

Reading your "counterfactual" rant and then the bit comparing Snowe-Dorgan regulations to the telecomm bill made me laugh out loud.

The Senate telecomm bill may be 40 pages, but it has nothing to do with the Internet. Nothing. Period. Anyone who tells you that the telecomm bill destroys net neutrality is either clueless of lying.

Those 40 pages are largely about cable franchising and Universal Service Fund reform.

by WADem 2006-08-04 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

Yes, the bill is primarily about regulating the participation of the cable companies and the telecom companies in providing digital video content.

But it also eliminates, by statute, the longstanding common carrier provision that applied to internet traffic from its inception.

And anyone who tells you that permitting packet discrimination is consistent with net neutrality is not only lying, but treating you like a fool. Net neutrality MEANS no packet discrimination.

My reference to the length and complexity of the bill was meant to illustrate that is absurd to claim that it represents "free market" approach.

And if the bill has nothing to do with the internet, why did Senator Stevens present his thoughtful analysis of the nature of the internet?  If it has nothing to do with the internet, why did we have that silly telecom tubes advertisement up on our favorite blogs?

This doesn't even pass the laugh test.

by jayackroyd 2006-08-04 11:21AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

The bill does not eliminate net neutrality. It doesn't speak to the issue of content treatment at all.

Stevens' remarks were made in a committee markup hearing while debating a net neutrality amendment which ultimately failed. The bill that has been reported out of committee has nothing to do with Internet regulations.

by WADem 2006-08-04 02:49PM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

"But it also eliminates, by statute, the longstanding common carrier provision that applied to internet traffic from its inception."

There is no common carrier provision that has ever applied "to internet traffic."  You are talking about common carriage of telco transmission facilities, which is only one mechanism for delivery of Internet traffic (others include wireless and cable transmission, neither of which has ever had common carriage requirements).

The net neutrality bills introduce requirements at the IP layer, affecting ISPs whether or not they provide last-mile transmission facilities, which have never previously existed.

It seems to me that net neutrality advocates should focus strictly on last-mile transmission, not on introducing new IP-layer requirements that would put the FCC in control of things like peering agreements and backbone engineering.

"And anyone who tells you that permitting packet discrimination is consistent with net neutrality is not only lying, but treating you like a fool. Net neutrality MEANS no packet discrimination."

Who says that?  Are you sure you're not confusing discrimination (blocking) with differentiation (tiering, QoS)?  While many(most?) advocates of net neutrality favor prohibition of both, there's no logical reason why it requires prohibition of the latter (and indeed, I've argued that prohibition of the latter is a bad idea).

BTW, Tim Berners-Lee is a net neutrality advocate who has not argued for prohibition of QoS.

by Jim Lippard 2006-08-06 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: The Other Timothy B. Lee

"You are talking about common carriage of telco transmission facilities, which is only one mechanism for delivery of Internet traffic (others include wireless and cable transmission, neither of which has ever had common carriage requirements)."

To clarify, there are wireless common carriers, but wireless carriers never been required to unbundle services and allow third party Internet providers to supply services over their facilities.  Only the incumbent local telcos were required to allow third-party ISPs to provide services (via dialup, ISDN, and DSL).  Those requirements did not include Internet interconnection, which has been completely unregulated--when a third-party ISP provides dialup, ISDN, or DSL Internet services, they've only used the telco transmission facilities, not the ISP's Internet services.

by Jim Lippard 2006-08-06 10:11AM | 0 recs


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