All right, enough already. Drop it. Cease and desist. Alto.
Let’s give Ted Stevens, new Internet meme star, a break. While we pause for Moveon.org to launch another million e-mails mocking the senior Republican from Alaska, some background:
Last month Stevens, chairman
of the Senate Commerce Committee, gave a rather, well, interesting
explanation of how the Internet works during a telecom reform vote.
Stevens’ angry, sputtering discourse is now a minor Internet sensation, so
far inspiring a song, a techno remix, YouTube popularity and lampoons on The Daily Show,
all of which are widely available at your nearest Internet.
For the record, Stevens said the Internet was not a truck.
“It’s a series of tubes!” he barked at Maine’s Olympia Snowe, as if she had
no idea. “The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not
The good folks at Public Knowledge posted the audio of Stevens’
rambling discourse on its site.
“We didn’t do it to embarrass Sen. Stevens, but to give the public an inside
view of what can go on at a markup. Just so you know,” Public Knowledge’s
Art Brodsky explained.
When people knew, the merry mockery of the 85-year-old senator began in
Stevens gave them plenty to work with.
Those tubes, for instance, are getting full and that’s why Snowe’s amendment
calling for network neutrality is a bad idea.
As Stevens sees it, network neutrality will ensure a dumb network where all
Internet traffic is treated the same. The end result, he claims, will be a
Stevens again directed his fire at Snowe, a fellow Republican.
“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 it’s going to be
delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material,” he
And, to add emphasis, he threw in another, “Enormous amounts of material.”
“Anyone,” in this case, is Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay and other large
content providers who are pressing Congress to include network neutrality
language in the telecom reform bill.
A smart network, on the other hand, said Stevens, will be able to
prioritize traffic and, not coincidentally, create new fees for the telecoms
rolling out fiber-optic networks.
“The regulatory approach is wrong,” Stevens told Snowe. “Your approach is regulatory in the sense that it says, ‘No one
can charge anyone for massively invading this world of the Internet.'”
Now, it should be noted that Stevens is not opposed to network neutrality.
Just as lawmakers in the House who approved a telecom bill without network neutrality language, Stevens believes the matter should be
left to the Federal Communications Commission.
“The whole concept is that we should not go into this until someone shows
that there is something that has been done that really is a violation of net
neutrality that hits you and me,” Stevens said.
Stevens’ point is being ignored by those who are portraying him, at best, as
a hopelessly out of touch Luddite or, at worse, just plain stupid.
And why not? It’s about all the ammunition that those supporting network
neutrality have left: insults, slurs and parodies.
What Public Knowledge did in posting Stevens’ audio is a public service to
be applauded. Here’s hoping more people will post lawmakers’ raw, unedited
comments to the Internet. As Brodsky said, “Just so you know.”
The meme-like reaction to the posting is an interesting footnote to the
whole network neutrality debate just as surely as Rep. Anna Eshoo’s
(D-Calif.) well circulated comment: “Who the hell knows what network neutrality
And she supports it.
But no amount of Stevens parodies is likely to move the public meter
off zero when it comes to network neutrality.
Bloggers can blather all day
long about Stevens, the man in charge of moving telecom reform through the Senate, having a brain cramp and referring to the Internet as a series tubes instead of pipes.
But in the end, the joke is on them: Stevens has the votes and they don’t.