The Internet is “a series of tubes”

I didn’t say it. Ted Stevens, the Republican from Alaska who voted against Net Neutrality explains why he voted against net neutrality, and while he was at it, explained to us exactly what the internet is. I thought his explanation could use some illustrations, so I created a PowerPoint presentation to help Ted explain.

Ted, feel free to download my PowerPoint file and use it in future committee meetings.

For those of you who don’t have IE or PowerPoint, I’ll work on turning the presentation into images over the holiday.

Update: Patrick turned it into a series of images for me. Since he did the work, he gets the link. Thanks, guy.

Update 2: And now, for your viewing pleasure, an Adobe PDF file, thanks to several readers, but specifically, Nathan B., who sent me the smallest copy.

Have to conserve the bandwidth, y’know. All those fat guys in tubes are hogging it.

This entry was posted in Computers, Humor, Juvenile Scorn, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to The Internet is “a series of tubes”

  1. cond0010 says:

    Heh, cutting straight to the point, eh Meryl?

    Those weren’t the tubes I had in mind, but hey, I’m amused.

    Ya know, a rubber ducky ‘sqeaker’ sound bite for turning the page would be a nice addition to the pp file. Your welcome. :)

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  3. Beck says:

    Bravo, Meryl, bravo!

  4. Looks fine with Open Office!

    And if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck… it must be Senator Stevens.

    Assiduously working to give us an Internet to Nowhere.

  5. Microsoft says:

    To save the PowerPoint file as a series of images…

    File > Sales As

    And then change “Save as type:” to GIF or JPEG.

    It’s as easy as sending an Internet.

  6. panu says:

    I dont know the full background of the net neutrality bill Stevens favored or opposed, but it seems like he’s taking an unfair beating for his line that the Internet is a “series of tubes.” He’s right of course in using the metaphor of “a series of pipes”, and of course its wrong to use “a series of [inner] tubes.”

    Now the pipes do have capacities, like the plumbing in your house and like the streets and roads in your town, and when those pipes or roads are overused, then there is congestion, and congestion slows down *everybody* and on the highway, unpriced congestion costs are the largest cost.

    If “net neutrality” means “free” [unpriced or non-market priced] access then there will be congestion. If net neutrality means you can’t manipulate service levels to others, including competitors to give yourself a competitive advantage, then that is quite another matter ….

  7. Dave Katz says:

    Great stuff Meryl.

    Is that Ted responding above?

  8. Kinda reminds you of another dingbat Senator who had no idea what he was talking about when he opened his mouth about Internet goings-on, but he’d be damned if he didn’t stick up and defend the people paying his campaign a lot of money so he could run again.

  9. Patrick says:

    Great presentation, Meryl!

    I hope you don’t mind, I made an html version of your Powerpoint presentation:

  10. Dan says:

    panu is correct. Stevens got it pretty close to right. IP and other comm connections are almost always explained as “pipes”. If you replace “tubes” with “pipes”, what is the issue with Stevens’ analogy?

  11. I should just like to point out that nowhere in my post, or in the PowerPoint presentation, do I do anything but quote Senator Stevens directly.

    Read into his words what you will, I said nothing.

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  13. Jeff says:

    That is the single funniest thing I have seen on the web in months. I almost laughed a turkey on sourdough onto my keyboard (I managed to save it only through serious effort).

    Thank you Meryl!

  14. cirby says:

    If you replace “tubes” with “pipes”, what is the issue with Stevens’ analogy?

    Why don’t you send him an internet and ask him?

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  17. marybeth says:

    If you send him an Internet, ask him to explain this too – “Maybe there is a place for a commercial net but it’s not using what consumers use every day.”

    Consumers without commerce?

  18. mack says:

    This is not a big deal.What Sen Stevens is saying is,he needs his tubes cleaned out,and needs to lay some new pipe, and he’ll feel much better.

  19. Gunga says:

    I always thought it was Congress that was a bunch of tubes. Silly me!

  20. mack says:

    A quick “internet” will straighten him right out.

  21. Patrick: Nice job. I don’t mind. Viral marketing is the new internet, right? No, wait. It’s the new pipe.

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  23. MrFred says:

    I’ll send my company your resume and this PowerPoint as a work sample. I’m sure you’ll be getting a call any day now…

  24. And before I forget, thank you all for the kind words. It was as much fun for me to make the PowerPoint as it was for you to read it.

  25. Just Some Guy says:

    Ted Stevens is wrong: the Internet is made of strings, not tubes. When you click on a link, that pulls a tiny string in your computer, which pulls a larger string that goes to the link. Why do you think they call it the “world wide web”? It really is a web.

    Stevens’s larger point is still true, though: if we let commercial interests use the Internet for their commercial purposes, it could fall apart. After all, lots of the strings (especially the ones nearest, or even inside, your computer) are in fact thinner than spider webs. Yank too hard on them, and the web falls apart. That’s why routers keep going down. You didn’t think Linksys had actually discovered how to make a solid-state device that fails after 18 months of quiet operation, did you?

    Don’t be silly.

  26. Actually, MrFred, I’m quite good with PowerPoint and Visio and most graphic programs. I cut my teeth as an Atex Typesetter years ago, and moved into the desktop publishing world as desktop publishing entered the pre-press industry.

    This presentation took no time at all to kick together. It was a lark. But I do have some serious presentations used in previous jobs.

  27. Greg says:

    Everyone here who made the connection between “tubes” and “pipes” is pretty much correct. Stevens is a little fuzzy on how this all works (as are most Americans) but his worst sin seems to be taking pointers from AT&T Chairman Ed Whitacre, who famously said his “pipes” weren’t free. And forgive me for defending the old senator, but sometimes even veteran politicians misspeak, with all the talking they do, so I’m sure Stevens would correct his description of getting an “internet” from his staff. The elderly are pretty bad when it comes to technology anyway, so Stevens is relatively advanced. That said, the PowerPoint file is hilarious.

  28. mack says:

    “The elderly are pretty bad when it comes to technology anyway,”-

    As an elderly voter, I can tell you you’re correct.Learning new technology is kind of like learning to play the piano – if you start at 50 or 60 years old,there is little chance of seeing Carnegie Hall unless you purchase a ticket and sit in the audience—neither should Sen.Stevens be in a public forum “explaining” technology to those who understand it much better than he does,unless he enjoys making an asshat out of himself.

  29. Loren says:

    Maybe he meant “aluminum tubes”.

    I have an idea. Instead of “broadcasting” the internet could use “tokens”. Much more efficient.

  30. rho says:

    Is Ted Stevens all that incorrect? Not particularly. There is a limit to how much information the various backbones can carry; the nature of TCP/IP is that it makes a best-effort to deliver the packets, but it is by no means fool-proof; the killer-app for the Internet is still email, not on-demand video or VOIP.

    On the face of it, if you get beyond the malapropisms and fugly terminology, he’s not blowing 100% smoke out of his ass.

    I’m not sure what point this satiric PowerPoint is supposed to prove.

  31. It’s a litmus test, rho. It proves whether or not you have a sense of humor.

    Vulcan, much?

  32. ilyka says:

    That was a gem. I’m not even reading any comments that suggest otherwise because I’m not going to let anyone kill the funny with this one.

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  34. Peg C. says:

    Screamingly funny, both Stevens and the presentation!

    I know Democrats are dumb, but I’d really like Republicans to leave some room for doubt. Stevens blew that bigtime.

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  36. Patrick says:

    The reactions to Meryl’s .ppt is almost as funny as Stevens’ original statements. Fascinating.

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  38. Will says:

    I think a key point here is that although the tubes analogy is fine it is clear that Stevens doesn’t have enough of a grip on the basic Internet to know enough to make his own decision on net neutrality. The fact that he’s out there stumbling over himself indicates that he’s touting someone else’s opinion. But hey, this is about the most corrupt congress we’ve ever had, so what’s the harm then, right?

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  41. Well if you listen to the Telco’s version of net neutrality it means google, yahoo and other high traffic websites are getting a free lunch. In the real world though, these websites pay enormous hosting and bandwidth charges by they’re ISP’s who in turn is charged by the Telco’s for the inter-connects. What the telcos are really trying to do is gain control of traffic prioritization so they could effectively counter the growth of VoIP and be able to charge extra fee’s to the VoIP providers for the privelage of ceompeting against them. Oh sure they will say it’s google and yahoo but the fact is those websites pay for traffic bit by bit. This is about maintaining a monopoly on voice services.

  42. tdehnel says:

    Someone did a Senator Stevens political blog at

  43. Pingback: Starked SF » Blog Archive » SEnator TEd Stevens, Idiot

  44. z0man says:

    Open Office opens it rather well :D

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  47. dave says:

    Ted raps about the Tubular Bell-cos here –

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