Stevens, Stewart, song and dance over ‘Net of tubes’

Commentary is spreading across the Web after U.S. Senator Ted Stevens described the Internet as a “series of tubes” during a debate on net neutrality June 28.

Stevens, the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, was speaking perhaps metaphorically during a rambling argument against a net neutrality amendment to a broadband bill. Stevens’ apparent point: The Internet could be easily clogged with junk, and broadband providers should be able to separate their own content from streaming video and huge personal e-mail files.

In part, Stevens, an Alaska Republican, said: “The Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”

Stevens continued: “And if you don’t understand that those tubes can be filled, and if they’re filled when you put your message in it, it gets in line, it’s gonna be delayed by anyone who puts into that tube enormous amounts of material.” Stevens went on to say that his staff sent him an “Internet” that was apparently delayed by ‘Net congestion. (He may have meant that his staff sent him an e-mail.)

On an 11-11 vote, the committee rejected the amendment, which would have prevented broadband providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. from charging extra based on the type of content transmitted by Internet-based companies.

Stevens’ underlying point hasn’t stopped a series of parodies from popping up on the Internet. Earlier this week, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart broadcast Stevens’ remarks. Stevens, who is noted for making impassioned arguments in the Senate, is a frequent target of Stewart jokes, and Stewart suggested this week Stevens doesn’t understand the Internet.

Stewart’s riff on net neutrality is on, at this Web site. (Warning: Stewart uses a bit of off-color humor, as usual for him.) Stevens is also parodied in a techno dance mix making the rounds on the Internet. The speech, set to music, is available at this Web site.

A bit of controversy erupted this week when the blog and community Web site, owned by conservative businessman Rupert Murdoch, pulled another song parody, but the song was back on the site as of Thursday. That song, kind of a folk-music tribute to Stevens, is available at this Web site.

If that’s not enough political parody for you, do a Google search on Ted Stevens and “series of tubes” and find out what the bloggers are saying.

A Stevens spokesman didn’t have an immediate comment on the parodies.

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