Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Understanding why the tubes

The news that the house of US Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has been raided by the FBI may shed some light into the discussions that took place in a US Senate Committee a little more than a year ago, when the same senator called the Internet a "series of tubes". During those discussions, Senator Stevens opposed a measure prohibiting pricing differently Internet transmissions according to the content or the sender of the content, also known as Internet neutrality, and the Senator's committee killed the measure. The “series of tubes” metaphor was popularized and ridiculed by John Steward in his Daily Show, who linked it also with the prohibition of gambling online, excepting state lotteries and horse racing. If we follow what other bloggers (even Republicans) have been saying about Senator Stevens’ practices, it seem now quite understandable that somebody with probably no knowledge whatsoever in the topic used his power to oppose measures that might have precluded certain companies from boosting their already huge profits and make exceptions for those who also have deep pockets: normal users and American citizens don't have the same resources to pay for campaigns and costly extensions to the Senator house and other associates, while those companies have (not surprinsingly, Senator Stevens was the "secret senator" that put a hold on a bill the would require the government to publish online a database of federal spending). While it can be argued that the practice is no monopoly of Senator Stevens and his friends in Alaska (according to the redstate.com two thirds of Alaska’s federal representatives are under an FBI investigation), in this case the well known corruption in the American Congress (sorry, north the Rio Grande is called lobbying) also affects the rest of the world and the development of the information society. Since the US Government has repeatedly expressed its right to interfere in the affairs of sovereign countries, it is fair for the non-American citizens to have a say in political processes that have impact beyond the US. The lack of Internet neutrality would affect everyone within and beyond the US and, while the different pricing might have basis for justification, the issue cannot be decided by the size of the check that certain US members of Congress receive from the interested parties...(while a year ago I mentioned vested interests it seemed that it was not correct to cast a shadow of doubt over the longest serving Republican senator, but now res ipsa loquitur)

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