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"Series of Tubes": Revisiting Sen. Ted Stevens' Classic Remarks on the Internet

08/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

From Sen. Ted Stevens' point of view, there might be some good in his indictment, on seven charges, today: At least this may push his previously best-known worst-day back into the shadows for awhile. I refer, of course, to that day of infamy, June 28, 2006, when Stevens, then 82, referred to the Internet as a "series of tubes" (among other slightly skewed descriptives) in a much-mocked speech on the floor of the Senate, in a debate over Net Neutrality.

Of course, this quickly made the press, The Daily Show, YouTube and eventually thousands of Web sites -- and became a punch line in cocktail chatter and the comedy circuit. Someone even did a song called "Series of Tubes." But it strikes me that probably few have ever read his extended remarks, or at least have not experienced them for years.

So here is a excerpt with "series of tubes" in context, if you can call it that. Sen. Stevens, it should be noted, must have recently subscribed to Netflix.
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There's one company now you can sign up and you can get a movie delivered to your house daily by delivery service. Okay. And currently it comes to your house, it gets put in the mail box when you get home and you change your order but you pay for that, right....

I just the other day got -- an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.

So you want to talk about the consumer? Let's talk about you and me. We use this internet to communicate and we aren't using it for commercial purposes. We aren't earning anything by going on that internet....

The regulatory approach is wrong. Your approach is regulatory in the sense that it says "No one can charge anyone for massively invading this world of the internet." No, I'm not finished. I want people to understand my position...

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Now we have a separate Department of Defense Internet now, did you know that? Do you know why? Because they have to have theirs delivered immediately. They can't afford getting delayed by other people.

Now I think these people arguing whether they should be able to dump all that stuff on the internet ought to consider if they should develop a system themselves. Maybe there is a place for a commercial net but it's not using what consumers use every day.

A special tribute to Stevens and his "tubes" speech: