When it comes to the internet, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) is, it appears, misinformed. Real misinformed.
Commissioners at the US Federal Communications Commission appeared yesterday before the Senate Commerce Committee, and members had their chance to grill them and get the answers that the people of America need.
Johnson, meanwhile, used this rare opportunity to be a complete dunce about net neutrality. Johnson was, in his own words, “trying to convey why [net neutrality] harms investment and innovation”, and in doing so embarked upon the most misguided analogy we’ve heard since the late Senator Ted Stevens called the internet “a series of tubes”:
The distinguished senator from Wisconsin thinks net neutrality is like if “a group of neighbours want to build a bridge”, 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”, and now “a million people can come onto their property, ruin their lawns, and walk over that bridge”. Think of the lawns!
There are a lot of problems with this. First, the internet is not a bridge, what the hell? A million people using the internet isn’t the same as a million people on a bridge. Second, bridges are built by the government, not by private companies. That’s like, the main thing about bridges, is that they’re publicly owned and maintained. That’s why “roads and bridges” is the go-to example for infrastructure spending. Third, wouldn’t it be kind of messed up if a private company built a bridge and then charged different people different amounts to cross it? And what is the lawn, in this analogy? What lawn is being ruined? Is it mine? I don’t even have a lawn. Should I get a lawn and use the internet on it?
Johnson, who has surely never watched porn, asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai whether net neutrality meant, for example, doctors using the internet for remote diagnostics would have to “share that same pipeline, no prioritisation, with people streaming illegal content or pornography”. What if I need porn for medical reasons, Senator? Checkmate.
Pai, meanwhile, chairman of the body that will decide the fate of net neutrality, did not laugh the question out of the room but told Johnson he had “put [his] finger on one of the core concerns”. We’re screwed.