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Protecting your tubes since 1968
January 26, 2007 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Back by unpopular demand Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), the man who brought us the Tubes, now brings us the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, otherwise known as DOPA Jr. Because communicating with the Internets is a dangerous thing indeed.
posted by DiscourseMarker (36 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm ashamed that this man is my senator. From Stevens, this sort of thing is somewhat predictable. But as long as he brings home the pork I doubt he'll be elected out of office anytime soon.
posted by timelord at 4:33 PM on January 26, 2007


The Congress is a series of rubes.
posted by cortex at 4:35 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love that there is a derisive entry (obviously created by snooty technophiles) in Wikipedia dedicated entirely to that "tubes" phrase. This guy was born in 1923. Give him (and me) a fucking break.
posted by wfc123 at 4:47 PM on January 26, 2007


The wikipedia entry is ridiculous (as are a lot of wikipedia entries), but the mockery of Stevens' "tubes" speech is well-deserved. He elected to deliver that spiel, in the mode of authority, as a representative of the people of the United States. I'd expect to be mocked just as roundly were I to speak so foolishly in so public a forum.
posted by cortex at 4:50 PM on January 26, 2007


Give him (and me) a fucking break.

no.
posted by paxton at 4:51 PM on January 26, 2007


Give him (and me) a fucking break.

As long as that elderly douchebag is in charge of selling control of the internet to people who'll put even more ads on it, restrict my content, and turn it into something like television, I'm never going to give him a break.
posted by interrobang at 5:09 PM on January 26, 2007


Why is the mockery of his tubes speech well-deserved? "But experts talk about “pipes” all the time. Is the gap between “tubes” and “pipes” really so large?"

It's one thing to disagree with someone's policy, it's another to nitpick terminology. If he had said "pipes", no one would have given a damn. But he says "tubes", which is basically synonymous, and he's ridiculed across the net.

Give him a fucking break.
posted by null terminated at 5:22 PM on January 26, 2007


If he had said "pipes", and made numerous other changes to the language of his speech, and reconstructed it into a comprehensible summary of the actual situation, no one would have given a damn. As it is, he gave a clueless, senseless speech to defend bad policy. This is not reducible to a mere slip of the tongue.
posted by cortex at 5:25 PM on January 26, 2007


Let's compromise. It's series of pubes. Y'know, for transmitting porn.
posted by bhayes82 at 5:38 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I was living in DC, it seemed like every time a bill came out of the Senate further marginalizing or disenfranchising the citizens of the District of Columbia, Stevens had a hand in it.
Of course, as usual, the details are a bit hazy in my memory.
posted by MtDewd at 5:39 PM on January 26, 2007


Break him with a hard fuck.
posted by Balisong at 5:56 PM on January 26, 2007


I will certainly not give him a break. Confusing the term 'pipes' when used in datacomm for 'tubes' may be excusable for a wal-mart employee, it is not excusable for the previous Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The Senate body that oversees the industry.

Mangling a metaphor and then continuing on showing in glorious splendor your lack of understanding of the content of your job would be ground for dismissal from a business position.

But perhaps in the era where the Constitution is is belittled, as if it were a series of words. Such hubris and sloppiness is to be expected.
posted by MrLint at 6:16 PM on January 26, 2007


Let's just hope Stevens has had his tubes tied... we don't want any political dynasty here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:04 PM on January 26, 2007


Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act -- PCITTFCA.

No no, that'll never do.

Children's
Online
Defense (against)
Devious
Lechers
Everywhere Act.
posted by adoarns at 7:08 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


"the man who brought us the Tubes"

I thought you meant The Tubes. ("I love your salty taste.")
posted by davy at 7:34 PM on January 26, 2007


The issue is not as simple as Stevens saying "tubes" in place of "pipes." Saying so indicates you haven't watched the actual speech, in which he says, I quote:
"This service [Some kind of online Netflix equivalent] is now going to go through the internet and what you do is you just go to a place on internet and you order your movie and guess what you can order ten of them and delivered to you and the delivery charge is free right? Ten movies streaming across that internet. And what happens to your own personal internet? I just the other day got internet was sent by my staff at ten o'clock in the morning on friday I got it yesterday! Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things that going on the internet commercially!"
Now, the issue is not necessarily that Ted Stephens doesn't know how the internet works, or in fact what the internet is. Hint: It isn't an e-mail message. The issue is that Ted Stephens doesn't know how the internet works and he's directly capable of affecting how it's regulated. In this regard, he is not allowed to be "given a break," because it's his job to understand that which he has a hand in regulating. Or, it's his job to delegate that responsibility to someone capable of understanding it.

Exacerbating the problem, it seems obvious that Stephens is being fed bullshit by corporations interested in having a direct say in the regulations Stephens has a hand in creating. This is evidenced by the type of rhetoric that his horribly convoluted speech includes (I was extremely charitable in my transcription above.)

Specifically, he's been led to believe that were Netflix to start delivering movies digitally, they would somehow be able to do so "for free." As anyone who runs a website or web service can tell you, bandwidth is most definitely not free. I can host a couple thousand pictures on my personal website, but if I started offering high-quality movies to more than a handful of people, I would quickly exhaust my bandwidth allocation resulting in me having to pay more for the overages.

His rhetoric is false not because he's an idiot, but because he, or someone directing him, is being willfully misleading. He compares the internet to the postal service. He notes that Netflix pays postage to send movies now, but then leads in to the part of his speech where Netflix gets something "for free" by doing the same thing over the internet. This is false and misleading.
posted by odinsdream at 7:42 PM on January 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Personally, I think it's funnier that he called an email "an internet." Who cares that he mixed up "pipes" and "tubes"? He very clearly has no idea what he's talking about.
posted by cosmic osmo at 7:45 PM on January 26, 2007


(or, you know, what odinsdream just said.)
posted by cosmic osmo at 7:46 PM on January 26, 2007


s/Stephens/Stevens/
posted by odinsdream at 8:04 PM on January 26, 2007


Ted Stevens has wrinkly old man balls. And he sucks at life... and being a senator. DIAF
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 8:06 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Teh 53n@t3 iz a s3r13z of n3wbs.
posted by papakwanz at 8:47 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


If we have to give people elected to oversee something a break vis a vis not understanding it because of their age, maybe they shouldn't be elected at all.
posted by maxwelton at 9:05 PM on January 26, 2007


And what happens to your own personal internet? I just the other day got internet was sent by my staff at ten o'clock in the morning on friday I got it yesterday! Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things that going on the internet commercially!"

I got an Internet -- and it says you're a fucking asshole.
posted by ericb at 9:51 PM on January 26, 2007


I have listened to the speech and I couldn't disagree more with his policy. I don't think he has a strong grasp of the technology and I think he may make decisions that'll harm the Internet.

That said, the bashing he has gotten online for the phrase "series of tubes" reminds me of the irritating patronizing that can be typical of nerds. Creating t-shirts of fallopian or inner tubes does nothing but preach to the choir. Steven's said plenty of wrong and misleading statements in his speech--why can't one of those phrases be latched onto instead of one that is basically correct?

Why can't we discuss these issues in an honest and polite way?
posted by null terminated at 4:27 AM on January 27, 2007


null terminated No one is saying that the tubes comment in specific is why he's an idiot who should have no power at all over the net. Its simply a convenient shorthand way to refer to his entire batshitinsane speech wherein he demonstrated that he doesn't even know what the internet is, much less have any idea how it works.
posted by sotonohito at 9:25 AM on January 27, 2007


And, as for discussing issues in an honest and polite way, well, when Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and George W. Bush, all of whom have made their entire livelyhood based on using the most dishonest and impolite ways of discussing politics yet devised, then other people can back down a bit.

But right now there are right wing talk radio types who make their money literally advocating the murder of liberals. Until that shit stops complaining that its rude to mock a Senator for being an idiot sounds a lot like whining.
posted by sotonohito at 9:28 AM on January 27, 2007


As someone with 20 years of networking experience, I'm actually a fan of Stevens' speech.

"A series of tubes" is actually an excellent metaphor for how the internet is constructed, and I find it very ironic that a lot of the people making fun of the phrase don't actually realize that.

Stevens is obviously no technical literati -- but then, he wasn't giving a speech to a technical convention either. He was talking to the vast body of internet users for whom email *is* the internet. He was explaining to the average AOL user exactly what they were trying to regulate and why.

Perhaps I just feel his pain too much. Back in the early '90s I had to explain "what exactly this internet thing was" to many, many people. I quickly gave up trying to explain data-pipes, carrier cross-traffic agreements and service guarantees, and instead moved on to "It's a way you can send messages anywhere in the world. For free!"

Stevens made an argument for regulating the tubes in one particular way (actually, for removing regulation from them); A lot of us disagree with what he proposed, but it is clear that the tubes *do* need continued regulation if we're going to keep the carriers from squeezing the internet to death in the search for profit.

Rather than sitting around making snide jokes about the old guy who a) obviously is not a hip and with-it techhead and b) obviously has a better grasp of what the internet actually is than many hip and with-it wannabe techheads, perhaps people's time could be better spent addressing the actual problem of how to stop the carriers from unbalancing the internet core to make a profit.
posted by tkolar at 9:37 AM on January 27, 2007


Now, I'm not an expert in networking, so maybe I'm wrong, but I think the real issue with Stevens' metaphor is not really the "tubes" part, but the "series" part. A series is something connected in sequence, it's linear. As I understand it, the whole point of the Internet is that it was designed to be a decentralized network, to be in fact nonlinear. That way, if there was a problem at any given node, the data packets could just route around the problem and follow another path. If the Internet was constructed as an actual series of tubes/pipes/wires/whatever, then yes, traffic could get blocked and clogged as Stevens suggests. But I think Stevens' whole speech, including this particular phrase, shows that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of how traffic flows on the Internet. And that's what makes his attempts at setting policy and law about the Internet quite scary.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:32 AM on January 27, 2007


As I understand it, the whole point of the Internet is that it was designed to be a decentralized network, to be in fact nonlinear.

That definitely was a design goal for IP networks, but the reality of the internet turns out to be a bit different.

While there are are generally alternative paths to any destination, when it comes to the long haul links there are actually very few choices -- and all of those choices belong to the major ("first tier") carriers.

Rather than being the full mesh that was envisioned in the protocol design, the internet is actually centered around five hubs. These are major datacenters in New York, Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The hubs have a crapload of fiber connecting them, and virtually all non-local traffic goes through one or more of them.

If the fiber links between those datacenters were shut down, the internet as we know it would cease to exist. Sure, connectivity would continue through smaller auxiliary pipes and long distance modem calls, but the available bandwidth would be infinitesimal.

----------------------------------

...shows that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of how traffic flows on the Internet.

Well, no, actually. Any given data packet does in fact get to its destination by travelling over a series of tubes. And in practice if AT&Ts fiber link from Atlanta to SF is down you'll probably get redirected through Sprint's, but mere congestion on the AT&T fiber link won't do it. Instead you'll see a slight (measured in milliseconds) delay in your packets delivery.

The fact that he thought that his email was delayed several days by network congestion is a little worrying, but overall he presented a pretty good metaphor.
posted by tkolar at 11:41 AM on January 27, 2007


Give him (and me) a fucking break

No. If he would agree to not try and put together legislation on topics he is completely clueless about, we could give him a break. As it is, he deserves far more scorn than he is getting.

Too old to understand the internet? Let other senators design laws for it then maybe?
posted by malphigian at 11:46 AM on January 27, 2007


"It's a way you can send messages anywhere in the world. For free!"

Then you're part of the problem. This is the main problem with Steven's speech - he claims that Netflix would be able to deliver movies to people over the internet for free, as opposed to paying postage to mail them through the postal service. This makes the average person mad, because it seems unfair.

It's also entirely illogical. The internet is not free. Do you not pay a monthly bill for your ISP? Do they not pay for their connection to Quest or AT&T's backbone? Do you not pay overages to your web-hosting provider if a video you host suddenly gets slashdotted?

Where is this free internet you and Stevens think exists? It doesn't exist - and that destroys the entire basis for his speech - that the internet backbone providers aren't getting their "fair share" of the deal because of hoodlums like Netflix streaming 10 movies to each of their customers. It's willfully misleading for Stevens (or, really, whoever coached him) to make such a claim.
posted by odinsdream at 9:13 AM on January 28, 2007



Where is this free internet you and Stevens think exists?


The free internet I think exists is in virtually every library, college campus, and public wifi access spot on the planet. For individual users, free internet access is not hard to come by at all.

However, to your (or rather Stevens') main point:

that the internet backbone providers aren't getting their "fair share" of the deal

Actually, the point of his speech was the individual users weren't getting their "fair share" of the backbone. That NetFlix et al. are using a huge portion of this shared resource called the internet backbone, and poor individual users were getting trampled on the way.

The solution? Pay for priority on the backbone. Given its huge volumes, NetFlix will naturally choose the lowest and cheapest priority. Individuals at home don't have much volume, they can pay for normal priority. And voice traffic and other time sensitive stuff can pay for high priority.

This is exactly how postal rates work, and frankly if I didn't think that the carriers were a bunch of opportunistic amoral scum, I wouldn't be so opposed to it. Sure it would create a bunch of technical problems, but those could be solved. The real problem is that the carriers would quite predictably abuse the hell out of system like that.
posted by tkolar at 10:43 AM on January 28, 2007


I wrote...

Actually, the point of his speech was the individual users weren't getting their "fair share" of the backbone. That NetFlix et al. are using a huge portion of this shared resource called the internet backbone, and poor individual users were getting trampled on the way.


I should also note, in case the sarcasm wasn't clear, that this doesn't appear to be a real problem. People have called the pay-for-priority scheme a solution in search of a problem, and I definitely agree with that.
posted by tkolar at 10:56 AM on January 28, 2007


The free internet I think exists is in virtually every library, college campus, and public wifi access spot on the planet. For individual users, free internet access is not hard to come by at all.

Of those you listed, the only one that could be reasonably thought of as "free" would be the library, since it receives public funding. All of the others are paid for by the owner of the network. Panera Bread pays for their internet service and gives it away for free to you. That doesn't mean they get it for free.
posted by odinsdream at 7:31 PM on January 28, 2007


Umm, whatever. I told people that the internet was a way that they could send messages anywhere in the world for free. If you're trying to say that I lied or mislead them in any way, I'm really missing your point.
posted by tkolar at 8:43 PM on January 28, 2007


You're missing my point in that the internet is not free. You can't send messages anywhere in the world for free. You must pay someone for the service. Saying it's free is misleading because people can conclude things like Stevens did - that commercial interests will be able to cheat the system by sending media content to their customers "for free."

Yes, anyone you talk to likely interpreted you saying "for free" as "for very very very low cost." They are not, however, the same thing.
posted by odinsdream at 6:19 AM on January 29, 2007


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