A Senator describes the Internet
It’s often troubled me that the Senators who have been debating Net Neutrality might not… how should I say this… have the firmest grasp of the issue.
27 Stroke B confirms my worst fears with these excerpts from Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)’s speech against the Net Neutrality amendment (I’ve added some additional material by transcribing from the speech):
There’s one company now you can sign up and you can get a movie delivered to your house daily by delivery service. Okay. And currently it comes to your house, it gets put in the mail box when you get home and you change your order but you pay for that, right.
But this service isn’t going to go through the internet and what you do is you just go to a place on the internet and you order your movie and guess what you can order ten of them delivered to you and the delivery charge is free.
Ten of them streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet?
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. Why?
Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.
So you want to talk about the consumer? Let’s talk about you and me. We use this internet to communicate and we aren’t using it for commercial purposes.
We aren’t earning anything by going on that internet. Now I’m not saying you have to or you want to discriminate against those people
The regulatory approach is wrong. Your approach is regulatory in the sense that it says “No one can charge anyone for massively invading this world of the internet“. No, I’m not finished. I want people to understand my position, I’m not going to take a lot of time.
You’re asking now that to tell people who do have these systems that they can not ask that someone pay for the increased capability provided for what — for business. I don’t have to have that kind of speed they’re talking about, in terms of speeds that they’re going to put in the internet. But people who are streaming through 10, 12 movies at a time or a whole book at a time for… consumers… those are not you and me, those are not consumers, they’re the providers. And those people who provide these things and use the internet for a delivery service, rather than for a concept of communication, that’s the difference.
Here we have a situation where enormous entities want to use the Internet for their purposes to save money for doing what they’re doing now. They use FedEx, they use the delivery services, they use the mail. They deliver it in other ways and they want to deliver it vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck.
It’s a series of tubes.
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.
My favorite part is when he says that his staff “sent him an internet”. I would like someone to send me an Internet, please.
Hopefully my words make it through the series of tubes to you on your own private internet OK despite the fact that it might get tangled up with the people massively invading the tubes as though they were a truck.
But seriously, if you listen to Stevens’ speech, incoherent as it is, he appears to be echoing the anti-Neutrality companies’ argument that it’s unfair to legislatively prevent companies from charging more money for more bandwidth. That’s the “No one can charge anyone for massively invading this world of the internet” line.
This is a red herring, of course. You already pay more today for more bandwidth. Companies like Amazon and YouTube pay huge amounts of money for the bandwidth they use, which is only fair, and is not what Net Neutrality is about. Net Neutrality isn’t even about whether ISPs can charge end users more money for more bandwidth, which of course is also only fair.
Net Neutrality is about forbidding an ISP who has a business relationship with, say, Barnes and Noble, to charge Amazon punitive rates just for the privilege of reaching the ISP’s customers. Customers who, it should be emphasized, have paid for access to the Internet just like everyone else. There’s no good reason why ISPs should be able to throttle traffic selectively, based on their own interests, and that’s what Net Neutrality aims to prohibit.
One more thing: take a look at Stevens’ line about “those are not you and me, those are not consumers, they’re the providers“. This is the other thing that motivates Net Neutrality, of course: we’re all becoming providers. I’m a “provider” (albeit a tiny one), but I have no means or desire to pay extortion money to some ISP for the privilege of reaching you, a broadband consumer.
We want everyone to be a “provider”. Web 2.0, if it means anything, is surely about breaking down the status quo of huge corporations being the only source of “content”. Net Neutrality is the foundation on which you build a many-to-many Internet. Opposing Net Neutrality is the way to cement the hegemony of corporate speech.
Update: Later posts on the Series of Tubes: