Generation gap on the information superhighway

I am guessing that this esteemed Alaskan Senator is over the age of 40. Otherwise, I don't think he would say this, as he argued against a provision that would have made it illegal for an ISP to handle its own VOIP packets faster than a competitor's. (Hat tip: Gmail web clip.) Go read it.

I think what astounds me the most is not that he doesn't really know how the Internet works (because who really does? I mean, except for some of the readers of this blog and other assorted friends).

It's not that he thinks that there's something called "your own personal internet" (and he's not talking about an intranet or networking your home computers to one another).

It's not that he uses the word "internet" when he means "e-mail."

It's not that he says that the internet is made up of a series of "tubes" (the concept isn't far off, as I understand, just the word "tube" instead of "fiber optic lines" or "cable lines"--correct me if I'm wrong).

As the kids say, "Whatever." He could learn the right lingo in a few minutes if he would take the time to.

What astounds me the most is that he thinks that "We aren't earning anything by going on that internet." Speak for yourself, Senator, but a lot of people are earning something by "going on that internet."

And, of course, the overall level of ignorance--the aggregate of all of those statements--is simply amazing.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I thought that Senators had people who primed them with information they would need to make decisions like this. I mean, isn't that what aids and interns and whatever else are all for? To make sure that Senators have the information they need to make the decisions that they make? Even if they make the wrong ones, I would at least like to think that they know something about what they're making a decision about.

I'm so tired of finding out that things that I had some teeny tiny bit of idealism about are not true... It would be nice to be informed that something about which I am already cynical does not merit cynicism!


Refugee from Reason said...

Senators used to have people who "primed them." Happy Birthday, by the way...the good news is that you're young; the bad news is that you've not experienced true legislators in Congress, only jackleg politician; but the great news is that Hegel was probably correct about historic cycles and you're more than likely to experience a time when the Administrative and Legislative branches actually care more about the people and effect appropriate action to resolve problems.

Me, I just figure it's great show right now, albeit an unfortunate one.

Lori Witzel said...

How did I miss this in Wired? I know...my Inner Radar for Avoiding Things That Disturb Me Greatly must have been left on.

"...sent an internet..." indeed.

Thanks to Mr. RfR for pointing me to you, and thanks as well to Mr. RfR for giving a more modulated, thoughtful take than my sputtering incredulity.

David said...

The comments and statements by people who don't understand how that stuff works are tremendously frustrating to those of us who do understand how this stuff works. The current debate over "net neutrality" is a rorshach blot into which every viewer is seeing his or her preconceptions.


Oh, and happy birthday :)

The Town Crier said...

Its what happens when politicians legislate and then lecture on issues they obviously know absolutely nothing about. Just like congressman Lyn Westmoreland and the Ten Commendments.

BZ said...

Yeah, he's 82, one of the oldest.

Happy birthday!

ALG said...


You posted a comment about this on a previous post (Senator Clinton's e-mail to me). I didn't reply at the time, because I was totally swamped. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the net neutrality debate over whether ISPs can shuttle their own content along faster than that of, say, their competitors? That is, if Verizon starts making movies (weirder things have happened), they could set it up so their movies downloaded/streamed faster than those of other content providers? Isn't this an issue of monopoly? If they did that, then by controlling both the lines and some of the content, they could unfairly shut out other content providers.

ALG said...

Oh, the previous comment I was referring to is here, in case you've forgotten.

David said...


"net neutrality" is a made-up term which, like a rorshach test, has come to mean a bunch of different things. I spoke with an L.D. yesterday who had a strong opinion on the subject, but had some very wrong factual information (she believed that consumer-grade services like verizon and comcast permitted anyone to become a content provider; she's wrong - their terms of service explicitly prohibit this).

Anyway, what you're describing is the one version of the topic which actually has technical possibility - here's the flip side: there are capabilities which can be deployed which require that the source and destination be on the same network. If a provider is forced to offer only those services which can be given to other companies identically, then those capabilities will not be deployed.

Example: I can offer end-to-end service guarantees if and only if the source and destination are my customers. If either source or destination are not my customers, then their service may (note word "may" not "will") be affected by the other provider's network conditions.