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When the Internet Is in Trouble, Call John Oliver

[Updated May 9] The FCC issued a statement on May 8, reporting multiple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that had occurred Sunday night and Monday morning (May 7-8). “These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC,” the statement said.

Once again, US Internet service providers have a chance to eliminate net neutrality – this time with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as their main ally.

And, once again, John Oliver of Last Week Tonight is bringing the issue into the spotlight and calling on viewers to respond by flooding the FCC site with comments.

 

John Oliver vs FCC Website

Oliver has already taken on net neutrality before. He captivated the nation back then, turning a complex policy issue into an accessible and hilarious video spot, which resulted in crashing the FCC’s servers.

This time, Oliver’s show went so far as to register a domain name — gofccyourself.com — to give Internet users an easier way to post comments on the FCC site. That seems to have worked, with over 45,000 net neutrality comments posted on the website. The FCC did not directly acknowledge the enthusiasm shown by viewers of Last Week Tonight, but its Twitter page did accept that the website was having a major slow-down.

“The Internet is the repository of all human knowledge — and goats singing Taylor Swift songs,” said Oliver during the show, celebrating the freedom, the equality and the outright weirdness of the Internet. However, the level playing field of the Internet is threatened by Trump’s administration’s attempts to repeal the Obama-era rules protecting net neutrality. According to Oliver, he’s not surprised, just as he wouldn’t be surprised if Trump announced that he “personally killed every turkey that Obama ever pardoned.”

Net Neutrality Debate

On a more serious note, net neutrality (also known as the Open Internet) has been the source of an ongoing debate for years. Its main purpose is to safeguard public interest by preventing Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminatory practices. These may include blocking or slowing down online content or pressuring content providers into paying fees for fast traffic lanes.

Naturally, ISPs are not happy, blaming the Open Internet rules for decreased broadband investment, amongst other things. Meanwhile, the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says he wants the government to focus on correcting actual anti-competitive behavior that service providers might engage in, rather than preventing “hypothetical harms.” (That probably means he’s going to finally address the well documented fact that many Americans have no actual choice over their ISP.)

Washington lawmakers have also joined the debate on both sides. Nine Republican Senators have introduced a bill that would prevent the FCC from ever attempting to reinstall the net neutrality rules. In the opposite corner, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that Democrats in Congress will fight “tooth and nail” against the plans to roll back the net neutrality regulations.

What You Can Do

If you wish to contribute to the debate by telling Chairman Pai, Congress and the White House to keep their hands off the open Internet, you can:

  • Go to the FCC site and upload your comment. Unfortunately, Oliver’s “gofccyourself.com” domain no longer seems to be working, but you can still submit your suggestions.
  • Another way to do it is to sign this petition, aiming to collect 1 million signatures to defend net neutrality before the FCC’s next open meeting on May 18.
  • Join the EFF initiative Don’t Surrender the Internet and email your representative urging them to protect net neutrality.


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