Xeni on Rachel Maddow Show: John McCain vs. the Internet

Eternally excellent Rachel Maddow allowed me to join her tonight (pretty much the only reason I own a TV now is to watch her show) for a discussion about John McCain's "Internet Freedom Act," also known as "The Great Telecom Reacharound of 2009."

Why is the former presidential candidate who once described himself as technologically "illiterate" suddenly so worried about the nerdy details of internet architecture? Follow the money.

A Sunlight Foundation Report released yesterday says McCain received more telecom lobbying money than any other senator, over the past two years. We ought to stop calling him the senator from Arizona and start calling him the senator from AT&T.

Video: McCain Pushes Agenda Against Web Freedom (The Rachel Maddow Show)


  1. Besides the money, there was also the thing where he was possibly/maybe banging a telco lobbyist.

    Maybe I’ve been reading wonkette too much, but it certainly seemed like he was creepily close to Vicki Iseman.

    1. with regard to a new catchphrase for ‘net neutrality’: i can think of nothing more oppressive to the american people (and anyone else) than imposing corporate control over the internet. if i were in charge of spinning this topic, i would pronounce that control as ‘unamerican’ just to get to the faction that might possibly (gulp) support it (i would prefer ‘nonglobal’, but it probably wouldn’t resonate). i would also relate the impact of that control to further damage the economy by making it more difficult to circulate resumes, find work, buy from smaller companies, etc. the math is obvious. greed go away now.

  2. Loved it, Xeni. You seemed a little… beside yourself about McCain, and with very good reason. His intervention is reminiscent of sex education being taught by priests.

  3. This is what the big internet companies are getting away with in Canada. They call it internet throttling…just a fancy of way of saying we control what you view and when! Such policies, regardless of the country, are taking our freedoms back to the stone age. Hey big telecom, call profit mongering whatever you like, dress it up as fair use, but at the end of the day it is still a wolf in sheep’s clothing. America keep your sanity and freedom. Why are you letting law markers push for laws that make you more and more like China- the dreaded communist regime!

    Avid user from Canada

  4. I’m sorry, but Xeni, you really didn’t answer one of those questions at all. As Maddow asked, could the telecoms potentially ignore an FCC protection of the internet and go ahead with their throttling/blocking of sites? Or is that paranoia?

  5. loverly to see u on rachel’s show! she is one good reason to watch t.v., the other being Metalocalypse. keep da intarwebz free!

  6. @gruben: I agree, Xeni didn’t really answer the question. The answer I think is, yes they can try, however not without getting caught. Already people with the skill and know-how are able to collect the evidence of throttling that already exist, if a network neutrality regulation was enacted or voted through congress, the FCC would only have to confirm what users themselves would investigate. Hopefully the legislature will pass a law mandating network neutrality so it would not be scrapped by the appointing of an otherwise-minded chairmen or board of directors.

    @Xeni: Loved the segment nonetheless, and I too primarily have the TV to watch Rachel Maddow (and in my case Keith Olbermann as well) these days. I hope you’ll get the chance to talk about copyright issues as well with Rachel in the future if you have not already; maybe get Cory Doctorow invited and make it a bash.

  7. In a fight on the Internet always side with the geeks that built it. – that quote is now my Facebook status.

  8. @gruben, Matti-han: Actually, she did answer the question. What she said was that no, there really isn’t much you can do to keep telecoms from trying to do it, because they have a monopoly. The key is to make it illegal to do so, so that it would be less likely for them to attempt it, and that if they’re found to be abusing their power, they can be prosecuted for it.

  9. Just to point what I assume is an innocent mistake, Rachel talks about telecom companies wanting to “slow down” traffic on the net, while the logos from Yahoo! and Google are displayed on the background. Yahoo! and Google are not telecom companies and have been, indeed, very much in favor of net-neutrality, since the alternative is them being charged to get their content to us.

  10. This subject is an instance where we could use some good analogies to assist in making the general public understand what is at stake.

    – Imagine a library or bookstore where you could check out all the Republican books immediately, but had to wait 30 minutes to check out books written by authors not given the Republican stamp of approval.

    – Imagine a town with two newspapers, “The Conservative Trumpet” and “The Moderate Gazette”. In this town The Gazette is only allowed to deliver it’s papers after 8am during rush hour and the Trumpet is allowed to begin delivery fresh off the presses at 4am.

  11. Xeni’s hair was fabu, btw… but nm.
    we have to slowly and patiently exercise our rights with our decisions. Be conscious of our dollars, our clicks, our tweets, our comments. Nothing like the internet has ever been so good an example of the dendritic nature of thought and ideology.
    The lessons of history teach that the best and most sustaining change happen with gradual methods. Protest, yes, raise awareness, yes, but also don’t be afraid to wait and endure.
    Man, I didn’t mean this as a polemic, just to say that it will take time to change the viewpoints of the large corps.
    Also, wouldn’t it be nice if we had elected officials who didn’t take bribes? :)

  12. That was excellent. Everyone should call their representatives and tell them to vote against McCains bill.

  13. But there’s FREEDOM in the bill! It’s right there in the title.

    What a deceptive move to make. Net neutrality is what gives the public freedom. Having telecoms be able to alter, control, and decide when and how much people view information online is not. What irritates me the most is when telecoms were given taxpayer money in the form of subsidies to lay the infrastructure broadband internet and still push for this.

  14. Xeni, you’re just so cute. Sometimes it’s hard for me to keep my mind on what you’re saying. Picking geeks over fat cats is not a hard choice, though.

  15. For that bill to happen, it would need to be a global thing.
    not just one country doing it.

    lets say if the us does do this, how can you block access when other countries don’t. It does not stop from people using proxy software to gain access to block sites, there is always a way around.

    In conclusion, it makes the people thats trying to push this bill, and the companies that paying to make this bill enforced, ignorant and uneducated.

  16. I think the Time Warner/CNN analogy could be improved. ‘Slowing down’ MSNBC isn’t the end result from telecom interference – it’s the fact that these companies could censor and control the content.

  17. Xeni: Well done. Your comments on net neutrality were some of the clearest I’ve heard yet. Congratulations for being Maddow’s “geek,” that says a lot.

  18. Another good analogy might be if phone companies could regulate our calls in a similar fashion. For example, people or businesses that you call that are aligned with AT&T’s political agendas, or pay for AT&T services, might get better reception than those to the contrary. Or maybe you have to sit through an ad before you can talk to them. Similar thing to the internet and the premise that it’s a basic right.

    1. @liquis, very good thinking! I really like your way of illustrating the dilemma.

      I thought Ms. Maddow did a phenomenal job of setting up the story — something that is very technically precise — for a broad television audience.

      To all others who’ve offered constructive crit here, thanks! Alas, live television does not allow one to go back and tweak and republish for clarity, like our beloved blog does. I’ll try to do better next time! :)

      Glad most of you felt like the explanation/arguments I gave were more or less on point, and more or less effective. I may not be a wiener dog in a yarmulke, but I do try *almost* as hard.

  19. Brilliant Xeni,

    although I am going to have to restrict myself to your writings in the future as you are distractingly hot.

    Seriously, Rachel in general and this segment in particular are examples of “the good fight” for american journalism. Keep it up please, for as long as you can stomach.


  20. I’m really curious whether anyone has bothered to think about how this would affect international trade.

    If non-neutrality starts to make it less practical to host servers inside the U.S. or which route through the U.S. are Houston and San Francisco going to continue to be host to large hosting facilities?

    Businesses that rely on hosting with unmolested connections to the internet will have two options: 1.) pay a bribe to the ISP to have their packets left alone or 2.) move your tech backbone to another country.

    Guess which one the biggest, multinational companies will choose?

    If I was a shareholder I’d be screaming at them for inept management. This is absolutely brainless business planning. They’ve got secure revenue that they are not currently at risk of losing, and they want to create an entirely artificial risk with which to gamble that revenue against a completely unproven and severely uncertain new source of revenue.

    Take risks with capital instead, you idiots. Invest in infrastructure, attempt to generate more broadband customers, spread connectivity to gain more customers. Run your business like a freaking business, not a craps game where everyone’s a loser, even the people who aren’t playing.

    1. I think of net neutrality like a consumer protection law.

      For those concerned about telco’s going off-shore in response to a law, don’t be (unless it’s ridiculously badly written). Net-neutrality governs the telcos that provide access to the internet for consumers – it makes no difference where the content is hosted, but where the consumers are. It’s like talking about Walmart sourcing imported products to avoid consumer protection laws.

      Assume for a moment that there is a US law making sure that telcos provide fair and balanced access to the internet for US consumers. It’s possible that a telco might move their head office to Lichtenstein or Djakarta, but they would still be subject to the law if they’re providing services within the US.

      Net neutrality is about equitable routing, not serving.

      The telco’s COULD send packets overseas, where less profitable packets could be “accidentally delayed” but the needless routing would be easily identified, and they would still be subject to a US consumer protection law if they’re providing services within the US.

  21. i wanna call my senator and tell him to vote against mccain’s bill but my senator is mccain. sux for me but hey i’ll call anyways.

  22. The world has become so depressing that I keep only a loose tab on the news. So, I’m pretty ashamed that I only just found out from boingboing that MY senator has been eroding my freedoms from underneath me. I wrote him immediately about this and I urge you to do the same.


  23. AirPillo – An amazingly succinct summary of what is bound to happen.

    How can we get this information to the people who matter?

  24. Just sent the following to all my congress critters…

    Hi there,

    Just thought I should share this…


    It’ll make you laugh, or maybe cry. Anyway, at leasts it’s a break from health insurance reform (still wishing you the best of luck on that one).

    Let’s face it, John McCain should not be allowed anywhere near any legislation affecting the internet.

    Not only is he clueless, he’s financially compromised. It’s corruption at the highest level.

    If his cockamamie bill manages to get to a vote, please oppose it. Better yet, maybe you could author an opposing bill guaranteeing net neutrality and right to access for all Americans. It would be good for our economy and democracy.

    Google can find your Senator’s contact details (ie. “Maryland senators” turned up mine at the top.)

  25. That’s dirty. Thank the gods for Rachel Maddow & the Boing Boing Brigade.

    Will McCain ever go away?

  26. I wonder what Tim Berness-Lee is thinking about all of this?

    Also; Europe seem to be going anti-net neutral…

  27. So, I have to wonder… what kind of bogus arguments FOR McCain’s bill is he trying to foist on us? This seems like such an obvious thing to vote against, but I’m wondering how he’s trying to feed it to us. And how is the rest of the Senate responding? Are they buying it?

Comments are closed.