Friday, September 30, 2016

The internet really is like a series of tubes

The then-United States Senator Ted Stevens, in a speech made in 2006 criticizing an amendment to a bill on internet neutrality, made the analogy that the internet "is a series of tubes" (that can be clogged when too much data is sent.)

Of course I'm 100% pro net neutrality, and I fervently oppose any laws, in any country, that would undermine it. However, that analogy got a ton of ridicule and mockery, and I really can't understand why.

It might not be the most technical analogy in existence, but I don't see what's wrong with it. Internet transmissions have an upper limit to how much data they can transmit. It's called bandwidth. And the data being transmitted is, in fact, on some cases being compared to the flow of a liquid. Heck, there's a reason why it's called "video streaming", for instance.

The analogy might not be flawless, but it isn't all that far off either. If you try to put too much stuff to go through a series of tubes, they are going to become congested and clogged. There's a maximum capacity that a tube can carry. In the same way, there's a maximum capacity that an internet connection can carry.

Ever experienced lag when watching a video online? Well, something along the way got clogged, for one reason or another. Maybe it was a technical malfunction, or maybe too much data congested some server.

The analogy is not that far off. So why all the ridicule?

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