John Oliver's Call to Net Neutrality Trolls Crashes FCC Servers
To help protect net neutrality, comedian John Oliver on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight" called on Internet lovers to do what they do best: trolling. The result? They probably crashed the FCC's servers.
If you haven't been paying attention, the future of the Internet (i.e., the future of everything) is up for grabs right now. The Federal Communications Commission is considering revised rules to govern the way Internet service providers pass Internet traffic to consumers.
Critics would say the new rules actually won't govern ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, but rather unleash them to give "fast lanes" to Internet sites and services that are willing, and able, to pay for it -- a direct threat to net neutrality, the principle that all data should be treated equally, which up to now, rooted the astounding growth of the Internet.
John Oliver is one of those critics, and on Sunday, he unleashed a 13-minute comedic condemnation of the FCC's proposed Open Internet rules. In the diatribe, Oliver called net neutrality "hugely important" and spoke out against the FCC's proposal, saying it would "allow big companies to buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone in the slow lane."
Oliver also showed how Comcast's Netflix speeds slowed down until Netflix agreed to pay for direct access to the ISP's network as an example of just how manipulative big ISPs have been, even when constricted by net neutrality rules (and, thus, how manipulative they could be if unleashed from those strictures). He also pointed out that some big IT companies, like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook have come out against the FCC's new rules, joining activists in an unprecedented coalition that he compared to "Lex Luthor knocking on Superman's apartment door, going, 'Listen, I know we have our differences, but we have got to get rid of that ***hole in apartment 3B.'"
Oliver's also talked about Comcast's expensive lobbying efforts in 2013 -- totaling over $18 million -- which comes in second place only to Northrop Grumman. "Just to be clear, the ranking of who buys government influence is: Number one, the military industrial complex and number two, the provider of [the reality show] Lizard Lick Towing." He also pointed out that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler used to be one of those lobbyists for the cable industry.
Oliver's rant is not only hilarious, but actually a pretty thorough primer on the complex issue of net neutrality, ISPs, the FCC's new rules, and the consequences that could erupt if the FCC's changes go through. Watch it here (Warning, NSFW-ish Language):
At the end of the segment, Oliver mentioned that the FCC, as a matter of bureaucratic procedure, is taking public comments on their proposed rule changes.
And so he called for Internet trolls to "for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction" and flood the FCC's Open Internet comments page with their disapproval, adding, "Seize your moment my lovely trolls!"
(Any trolls who haven't commented yet can go here. At the bottom of the article, we have the FCC's comments box, email, mailing address -- as well as information on every FCC commissioner's email address and social media account)
On Monday, the FCC's Twitter account began to hint at the aftermath of Oliver's edict to the Internet's trolls:
We've been experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system due to heavy traffic. We're working to resolve these issues quickly.
— The FCC (@FCC) June 2, 2014
We're still experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system. Thanks for your patience as we work to resolve the issues. — The FCC (@FCC) June 2, 2014
The FCC didn't draw a clear link between Oliver's segment and their servers crashing, but it's pretty obvious. On the FCC's comments page, there are currently more than 49,000 comments just for the Open Internet rules. The total was about 25,000 before the weekend, according to Mashable, which took nearly 3 weeks to reach. And the next highest comment tally for a different FCC subject is less than 2,000.
In the last two days, there have been 22,257 official comments submitted to the FCC website, and more than 300,000 emails. The current commenting period runs through June 27, after which there will be a "comment/reply" period for another 60 days. Then the FCC decides the fate of our Internet. Maybe they'll listen if the number gets up to 1 million.
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