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Show Notes: Senators making stupid internet analogies

Show Notes: Senators making stupid internet analogies


March 8th, 2017

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Before every episode of The Vergecast I sit down, read through a bunch of news, and take a bunch of notes. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my week, and I started thinking it might be fun to do every day on the site. So, every day this week I’m sitting down and writing some notes on the news as though I’ll be talking about it later. Are you into this? Am I into this? I don’t know. But it’s fun to do! Give me some feedback and we’ll keep mutating this into something good.



Let's say a group of neighbors want to build a bridge over a creek so they can cross over and talk to each other a lot. So it's really for the neighborhood, maybe a dozen people. But then they find out the local government is going to require that [the] bridge is open to the entire community of a million people. No prioritization whatsoever. They don't get to cross first to see their neighbor. A million people can come onto their property, ruin their lawns, and walk over that bridge. Isn't that kind of a similar analogy? Isn't that a pretty good analogy in terms of what net neutrality is all about? ... Tell me where that analogy's maybe not accurate.

  • Literally none of this is accurate, Ron!
  • For starters, Verizon and Comcast and AT&T did not build “bridges over creeks” for their “neighborhoods”; they build massive broadband networks across the country, using enormous amounts of cash to secure wireless spectrum licenses and municipal permits to lay fiber.
  • Wireless spectrum, in particular, is a scarce public resource that the government controls because otherwise nothing would work. Unlicensed bands, like 2.4GHz, are great and allow things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to proliferate, but um, radio interference from other 2.4GHz devices is why Nintendo is having problems with Switch controllers. You don’t want that to happen with every band, especially ones that support things like LTE.
  • And it’s not like anyone wants hundreds of companies investing in digging up roads to lay fiber.
  • So the premise of Johnson’s analogy is insanely wrong from the jump. But where he goes from there is equally ridiculous: the idea that net neutrality is the equivalent of “the local government” requiring that “a million people can come onto their property, ruin their lawns, and walk over that bridge.”
  • Casting Comcast as a little old lady whose rosebushes are getting trampled by open internet traffic requires an almost breathtaking amount of self-deception.
  • Additionally, the value of the internet is derived from millions of people gaining the ability to send and receive information freely. Entire companies have generated billions in value because of open network access. Prominent examples that Ron Johnson may have heard of include two little outfits called Google and Facebook. The internet does not exist so AT&T can “cross first to see their neighbor.” Come on.
  • How did Ajit Pai respond to this insanely inaccurate metaphor designed to make huge ISPs seem like innocent townspeople crushed under the weight of tyrannical government? “Senator, you’ve put your finger on one of the core concerns.”
  • Sigh. Sigh.
  • Chairman Pai (and hell, Ron Johnson, who represents my home state of Wisconsin) are welcome on The Vergecast at any time to discuss these issues.