Congress and the President, historically, don’t have the best grasp of how the internet works or ought to be managed. This tendency cuts across both parties, from Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) infamous comments about a “series of tubes,” to bipartisan (though somewhat Democratic-leaning) SOPA support, to Trump’s declaration in December 2015 that we should ‘close the internet‘ as a means of stopping terrorism. If you’re waiting for Congress or the president to display a true, deep grasp of technology, you’re going to be waiting awhile. That said, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has set a new (albeit temporary) record for “Congressional Representative With No Idea How the Real World Works These Days.”
During a town hall meeting last week, Sensenbrenner argued that ISPs shouldn’t face regulations separate from what a company like Facebook faces when it wants to monetize your personal information. (Whether FB should have access to what it wants to sell is an argument for a different time). When challenged on this claim by someone who correctly understood that Facebook and your ISP have very different levels of access to your personal data, Sensenbrenner said the following:
"You know, again, nobody’s got to use the internet. And the thing is, if you start regulating the internet like a utility, if you did that right at the beginning, we’d have no internet. Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal services, now. And the fact is, you know, I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising through your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it and then you take it upon yourself to make the choice that the government should give you. And that’s what the law has been and I think we ought to have more choices, rather than fewer choices."