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Senator Ted Stevens: "It's a series of tubes"

stevens photoI just about snorted my coffee out my nose this morning reading excerpts of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens’ risible testimony explaining his opposition to some very basic net neutrality principles.

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday.

That’s a helluva thing, when you think about it, sending someone “an internet”.  Does he mean the bits, or the fiber and routers?  And was it a whole internet, or just the backbone, or maybe a local loop?  How big a truck do you need to carry an internet?  I mean, depending on the size of the internet that his staff is sending, it’s probably not surprising it took a little time to get to him.

We get a clue to what he means a little later…

… the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck.

It’s a series of tubes.

Got it… his staff sent him some tubes…  Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…

Senator Stevens goes on to explain his opposition to net neutrality as follows:

And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Clearly he hasn’t got a clue about how packet networks work.  It’s more like a highway millions of lanes wide, with 10’s of millions of on and off ramps, and each packet of data an individual driver. It most definitely isn’t like a garden hose, Senator.  Moreover, there are millions of miles of optical fiber in the ground, not being used, because there hasn’t been a need to bring that capacity online.

Talk about falling prey to the entrenched interests of the ILECS.   

It’s not really until you dig a little deeper that you understand why Senator Stevens is behaving the way he is.  The press release put out by his office after the Senate Commerce Committee approved the Communications Reform Bill tells all:

Several provisions included in H.R. 5252 will improve the communications services available in Alaska. The Act reforms the Universal Service Fund (USF), a federal program originally created to offset the cost of building and operating telecommunications networks in rural areas of the United States. It expands the base of USF contributors and creates an annual $500 million fund to address communications needs in rural areas. These funds will be used to deploy broadband to areas that currently do not have service, including rural areas in Alaska.

I’m guessing there aren’t enough “tubes” yet in Alaska, and he’s hoping that by pandering to the interests of the communications lobby, he can get a few more built.

If this guy were just another backwoods hick having his say in Congress, then it might not be as much of a deal.  Unfortunately, and this is what has Jeff Pulver so despondent, that’s not the case.  Senator Ted Stevens is… drum roll please… Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which includes in its jurisdiction telecommunications. Here’s his bio:

A member of the Senate for 37 years, Ted Stevens is Alaska’s senior Senator. Stevens’ tenure in the Senate makes him the fourth-most senior member among his colleagues, and first among Republicans. Stevens holds the position of Senate President Pro Tempore. He also is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has oversight of the Departments of Commerce and Transportation. In addition, the Committee’s broad jurisdiction covers issues including telecommunications, fisheries, oceans and maritime policy, the Coast Guard, aviation (including the Transportation Security Administration), rail, highway safety, global climate change, interstate commerce, space, science, technology, economic development, trade, tourism, consumer issues, product safety, and sports.

One wonders how many other industries he’s similarly misinformed about.

All is not yet lost though.  According to BusinessWeek Online, Stevens doesn’t have the votes to carry the bill in the Senate, and as a result it’s unlikely to face a vote this year.  If you live in the US, and care about Net Neutrality, it’s time to focus on what’s happening in Washington.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Dick Costolo July 5, 2006, 1:22 pm

    I think Senator Stevens might be a series of tubes. The line "[The Internet] is not a truck" sets the bar about as low as possible for public discourse on the issue before Congress. I can see them in committee weeks from now: "ok, we have established that the Internet is neither a truck nor a series of quotations. Next topic: How long, ideally, should it take to send somebody an Internet?"

  • Alec July 5, 2006, 1:46 pm

    It's an astounding statement, isn't it Dick?

  • Richard Egan July 5, 2006, 3:20 pm

    I think this guy needs to be shoved into one of those tubes he's refering to, and side tracked somewhere;
    maybe to a truck stop in his beloved Alaska.

  • MatthewS July 5, 2006, 8:09 pm

    If DO care about Net Neutrality write your legislators!

  • G Mangione July 21, 2006, 9:46 am

    Is this the same Ted Stevens who was taped picking his nose ad naseum during the Clinton impeachment hearings?

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