The Tubes Are Full of Ted Stevens!

|

Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-Alaska) skepticism about net neutrality regulation may be a good thing, but as Dave Weigel noted last week, his comprehension of how the Internet works seems a little more Flintstones-esque that one might like in someone who wields massive regulatory power over that "series of tubes." (Maybe legislators and judges who are at least conscious of their own ignorance about the Internet will be somewhat more willing to treat it with benign neglect?)

Well, like that Internet that took a few days to make it to the good senator from his staffers, the full force of the mockery due needed a few days to get revved up, but now it's flying down the tubes in abundance. There's video of Jon Stewart's Daily Show take at Wired blogger Ryan Singel's 27B Stroke 6. And the Ted Stevens Fan Club page at MySpace features a charming little ditty, "The Internet Is a Series of Tubes."

NEXT: Watching the Watchers. Slightly.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. And the sad thing is that Stevens will probably never be aware of any of it owing to the fact that he’s evidently too fucking dumb to even use TEH INTARNETS.

  2. There’s also the video for The Internet Is a Series of Tubes, at YouTube, appropriately enough:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtOoQFa5ug8

  3. I’ll send him an internet explaining it, if his personal internet isn’t clogged. I know his staff sent him an internet, but maybe my tube is larger.

  4. This is the part where we all start comparing the size of our tubes.

    And does anyone remember the Graham Chapman bit “The brain is like a giant fish. It is wet and slimy, and has gills through which it can see…”

  5. As much as I dislike Stevens, I don’t see why the use of this metaphor causes the disdain that it does. I doubt that the guy thinks that the Internet is made up of actual pipes (the kind a plumber might use), and I didn’t see anything in his statement to make me assume he meant it literally instead of metaphorically. Those of us who have been around the tech world very long have heard lots of discussion of the size of the “pipes” carrying our bandwidth. (Charter’s cable Internet service is even called Pipeline.) It seems likely that somebody has used the phrase (or a similar one) in explaining an issue such as bandwidth to Stevens. So what’s the big deal with his using a tube as a metaphor instead of a pipe?

  6. As much as I dislike Stevens, I don’t see why the use of this metaphor causes the disdain that it does. I doubt that the guy thinks that the Internet is made up of actual pipes (the kind a plumber might use), and I didn’t see anything in his statement to make me assume he meant it literally instead of metaphorically. Those of us who have been around the tech world very long have heard lots of discussion of the size of the “pipes” carrying our bandwidth. (Charter’s cable Internet service is even called Pipeline.) It seems likely that somebody has used the phrase (or a similar one) in explaining an issue such as bandwidth to Stevens. So what’s the big deal with his using a tube as a metaphor instead of a pipe?

  7. “As much as I dislike Stevens, I don’t see why the use of this metaphor causes the disdain that it does. “

    Perhaps because, in the way in which he’s speaking it’s utterly nonsensical. And even beyond that, just from the context in which he’s speaking, he doesn’t even seem to be able to differentiate between “internet” and “email.”

  8. Hell, he can’t even seem to stop stammering long enough to utter a coherent sentence at all.

  9. “As much as I dislike Stevens, I don’t see why the use of this metaphor causes the disdain that it does. “

    It’s not his use of the metaphor but his clear ignorance of how the internet actually works. The problem people have with him is that he should not be on the committee that decides how the internet should be regulated. It would be like going to a mechanic who can’t drive a care. Would you trust him?

    What this may really demonstrate is how bad the public is at choosing its government and/or how bad the pool candidates is.

  10. Unbelievable + Unbelievably hilarious. On a serious not, however, I feel like the internet (not being just a series of tubes) is now a cemented platform for personal freedom and control of media. Where else can make a home movie and show it to 200 of my friends. In essence not only am I consuming content, but I am also creating and adding as well.

  11. The guys who used to do MST3K should do a special on Stevens’ speeches.

  12. Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) skepticism about net neutrality regulation may be a good thing,

    As I recall, the discussion of net neutrality came to an “agree to disagree” point last time. While I’m usually against regulation, when you’re talking about protected monopolies who built their networks using the power of eminent domain, it’s not so clear-cut.

  13. For all the scorn heaped upon Senator Stevens for his blithering, it seems to have gone unnoticed (or unremarked upon) that his Republican colleagues elected him President Pro Tem of the U. S. Senate–the first Republican to hold that position since J. Strom Thurmond. this doofus is accordingly fourth in the line of presidential succession.

    What does that say about our Republican senators? Surely they would not want someone so incurious and intellectually lightweight in the White —

    Oh, my bad. As Emilly Litella said–never mind.

  14. Great now Gore is going to claim he invented plumbing.

  15. While I’m usually against regulation, when you’re talking about protected monopolies who built their networks using the power of eminent domain, it’s not so clear-cut.

    no you are dead wrong, developers and land owners gave it away…becouse people like power, water, roads, and telephones…and haveing those put in for free on your property is called an improvement.

    stevens is not the only idiot.

  16. You’re right, joshua. Claiming that eminent domain has not been used to install infrastructure (using the irrefutable claim that “people like them”) proves definitively that Ted Stevens is not the only idiot.

  17. Joe,

    Your knowlage of land use and history there of is very very small.

    It is rare that eminant domain is actually used and mostly only when a statist dem wants to have a bridge names after himself or a dam.

    As to eminiate domain used for telephone and cable wires you are talking about a very rare spiecies indeed…

    But I like how claiming that eminate domain created all or even most of the infrastructer for internet is so perfectly accepted.

  18. While I’m usually against regulation, when you’re talking about protected monopolies

    but this is the secand part of the two part logical falicy…so lets see here gov chooses winners and losers therefor we should regulate the winners even more…crimethink your libertarian decoder ring can be left at the front desk as you leave the building.

    🙂

  19. but this is the secand part of the two part logical falicy…so lets see here gov chooses winners and losers therefor we should regulate the winners even more…

    An unregulated state-supported monopoly is no closer to a free market than a regulated state-supported monopoly, eminate (sic) domain or no.

  20. I don’t get it.

    the internets (also known as “teh intarwub”, “Webbernet” or “das Webbenstein”) is a libertarian paradise in practice, if not necessarily in theory.

    It will be neither, in practice nor theory, when the only speech that gets through is that which is approved by Comcast and Verizon.

  21. The sad thing about Stevens’ conception of The Internets is that, faulty nomenclature aside, he almost gets it. I heard one tech-savvy commentator correct it thusly:

    The web is like the highway system. You message is like a pallet of freight. When you send it from your machine, it doesn’t go out on a truck, rather the contents of the pallet are broken up into as many small boxes as are convenient, and the traffic manager sends each of them to the receiver’s destination. They probably won’t all go by the same route, and some of them will arrive before others, but the receivers’ computer will put them all together on another pallet, and it’ll be just as if they travelled together. Now, the highways and byways are local and national networks of bandwidth “pipeline” and servers, and the traffic managers are the networks’ routers, and the little boxes are packets, but I think the Senator would get the drift. Yes, the bandwidth pipeline can get congested, if one of the big backbones like UUNET were to have an outage. But the whole idea of the internet is that the little “trucks” take detours when a highway is closed for repairs, and eventually your stuff gets where it is going.

    Of course, being from Alaska, he may not be able to understand the idea of a highway with actual traffic on it. His idea of a highway is a four-way, multi-million dollar ribbon of concrete with moose-crossing signs that 4 cars use each day, paid for by suckers in the Lower 48, but I digress. Maybe his driver can sign out a car without tinted windows next time they take I-95, so he can get the full experience. 🙂

    Kevin
    (Not an IT guy, at all, so feel free to correct my little metaphor.)

  22. If one defines the market as “ways to get internet access”, then, no it isn’t a monopoly. If it’s defined as “high-speed access” then the choices narrow as one’s bandwidth needs increase. In my area, there is one cable provider, per the monopolistic grant by the city of a contract* to wire the city to a particular cable outfit. There are multiple DSL sellers, but they all send the signal through the same “last mile” owned by the local RBOC (Baby Bell.) A Sat connection isn’t practical for many, frex, apartment dwellers who don’t have a place to hang a dish that points at the right patch of sky. So while there’s no monopoly, there is a kind of oligopoly caused in no small part by artificial barriers to entry erected by government and/or companies favored by government.

    *In the late 70s the city put out a Request for Proposals to any and all to wire the city. While technically more than one company could have presented itself to meet the requirements, de facto the terms were meant to be filled by one and only one vendor, a partnership of a national company and a local investor group that – surprise! – included many politically connected folks. The City Council Chair did not stand for re-election and – surprise! – took a cushy job with the cable company, while the Chair’s spouse ran for, and won, the vacated seat. No conflict of interest going on here, nothing to see, move along, move along.

    Those local investors all made a pretty penny when the smaller cable companies got bought out by the ones that survive to this day. Pure peculation, and neither the Feds nor the State authorities said boo about it.

    Kevin

  23. so wait kevin are you talking about competition now nationwide in most markets or are you talking about a cable monopoly that existed only in your town (which strangly you did not move or at least fund/volunteer an opposition campaine) sometime in the 70’s?

    the funny thing is much of the brew haha is all about correcting past evils and reminds me of a far left friend i have in regards to the enviornment..i explained how createing markets for the enviornment rather then command and control regulation would put a monetary value on habitat but he would not even consider it becouse of the evil things the land owners had done in the past and that they must be punished for it. his biggest problem was the cheap price they got for the land 100 years ago and how they clear cut it….i pointed out how those people who did that were not even alive…the vengance complex in some people…

  24. joshua:

    As I understand it, municipalities were quite willing to treat cable TV (no access to ArpaNet via coax back then, I’m thinking) as a “natural monopoly” that the government should be able to regulate, just as the old Bell System was. At some point, the Feds gave the localities the word that they weren’t exempt from anti-trust law, and, absent legislation explicitly authorizing them to grant monopolies, they had better stop that. I can remember that some communities in Colorado actually had competing cable systems back in the day, but the consolidation of the smaller carriers into the larger ones has probably changed that. I read about it in reason, no surprise.

    The “RFP written so that only one vendor can meet the terms” gambit was invented to get around anti-trust liability, and was a fairly common deal across the country in the early days of wiring cities for cable. For an example of one obnoxious clause, in our city the vendor had to wire the poorest section of town before the area that included:

    1.) A 20,000 student state university and environs.

    2.) The surrounding neighborhoods filled with “early adapter” types, including high-rise apartments and condo complexes full of young professionals who were just the sort to want cable’s early mix of movies and sports, and whose attenna reception was often crappy.

    3.) The city’s highest-toned properties, including expensive shoreline digs.

    So, rather than putting the wire in the market that was most likely to want cable, and be able to pay for it, the vendor first had to wire the `hood with the lowest incomes and worst credit histories. Oh, yeah, they were forced to provide “lifeline” service at a cut rate – just the over-the-air signals, plus the channels the pols extorted out of the vendor for their own use to cablecast city council and school board meetings.

    As a result, the vendor had to have much deeper pockets than it would otherwise, had it been able to sign up the customers who would provide it with the most dependable cash flow first. Would it surprise you that the Husband-and-Wife team I mentioned above represented one of the poorer areas? Pure Invisible Foot.

    As for moving or fighting back, I thought it prudent to finish college first. “If you don’t like it, move” is a lousy argument, anyway. Are we to retreat to Galt’s Gulch whenever we can’t get our rights respected? (As if they’d let us!) Believe me, I got well-involved in local politics eventually.

    Kevin

  25. Kev,

    all fasinating…but what does that have to do with the 3+ internet providers all competeting for price and service being a monopoly?

    By the way net nutrality would prohibit the telephone companies from competeing head to head with cable TV.

  26. ..what does that have to do with the 3+ internet providers all competeting for price and service being a monopoly? – joshua c.

    If you check upthread, I didn’t claim it was a monopoly, but that government regulations had certainly restricted the potential players in the market. I used the term oligopoly. My lengthy examples were an attempt to get people to think about the venal and petty motives of some of those who established the current regulatory scheme, back when the coax was the only non-attenna choice.

    If a town zoned all its land so that the only merchants who could make a go of it were WAL*MART, K-Mart and Target, I’d hardly hold that community up as a shining example of the free market.

    I’m sanguine about the net neutrality bills, too. I use a dialup service that is sold as “unlimited.” There are limits on it, of course. I can’t connect for more than n hours a month, sessions timeout after x hours, my uploads and downloads can’t exceed y and z bits per month, I can’t spam from it, etc. I know that going in, and it costs me half of the cheapest broadband service I can get, so it meets my needs. Whether the companies who want to send video over phone lines in competition with the cable companies are to be hosed or not should depend not on regulation, but on what contracts they can cut, with the end-users and pipeline providers, both. I’d like to see regulations loosened so that there are more competing pipelines, especially that “last mile.”

    Kevin

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.