Three years ago, a fledgling late night program on HBO exploded into the mainstream when it tackled the net neutrality debate by crashing the FCC website. Why? Because Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, a former Daily Show correspondent, wanted concerned viewers to flood the Federal Communications Commission with their comments or complaints about attempts by their agency, various corporations and the U.S. Congress to throttle perceived internet freedoms. Oliver and company didn’t get everything right, of course, but their viral efforts resulted in actual legislation and a surprisingly loud public outcry.
However, thanks to Donald Trump’s appointees with knowledge of the matter, current protections for net neutrality are in danger. Especially new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former counsel to Verizon whose name has popped up in Senate legislation regarding consumer privacy and expensive Wi-Fi on flights. He’s not the most popular person among net neutrality advocates, including Oliver. Citing a CNBC report describing Pai as “anti-regulation” and “pro-merger,” the Last Week Tonight host responded to his apparently wanting to “take a weed whacker to current FCC rules” accordingly:
“‘Days are numbered’ and ‘take a weed whacker’ are serial killer talk, so that is pretty ominous. When the code of federal regulations looks out of its window at night, there’s just Ajit Pai standing silently, holding his weed whacker, waiting for his chance.”
“The dangerous thing about Pai,” he continued, “is that he presents himself as a fun, down-to-earth nerd.” As a result, Oliver argued, the new FCC Chairman (and the anti-net neutrality administration he works for) is more likely to rollback Title II protections put in place under President Barack Obama. Besides, who in their right mind can resist a guy who quotes The Big Lebowski in his tweeted responses to critics?
So what are net neutrality proponents to do? The same thing they did three years ago — file official comments, complaints or both with the FCC on its official website. “The FCC are again going to invite public comment,” said Oliver. “Conveniently for them, the process is actually a lot more complicated this time than it was three years ago.” Sure enough, the sheer number of steps and complex entries concerned citizens have to go through in order to comment is mind-numbing. So Last Week Tonight made it as easy as going to gofccyourself.com and entering in your two cents’ worth.
And to the surprise of no one, Oliver’s second deep dive into net neutrality and the FCC’s latest efforts to curb it crashed the agency’s website (again).