HBO comedian John Oliver is a strong supporter of net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be treated equally. He made that clear in 2014 when he urged viewers to flood the Federal Communications Commission's website with comments supporting robust open internet safeguards. The resulting deluge crashed the FCC's website.
Three years later, Oliver is at again, and this time he's targeting President Trump's recently installed Republican FCC Chairman, former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, who last month announced a plan to roll back Obama-era net neutrality protections.
Public interest advocates call Pai's plan a brazen corporate give-away that will allow giant broadband companies like AT&T and Verizon to favor their own online services, discriminate against rival offerings, and sell access to internet "fast lanes" to the highest bidder.
During Sunday night's episode of "Last Week Tonight," Oliver urged viewers to visit his recently-purchased URL gofccyourself.com, which redirects to the FCC's comment submission page, and express opposition to Pai's plan. Apparently, many people did just that, because the FCC's website promptly crashed. (Comments can also be submitted via this website.)
Oliver also implored "Donald Trump's internet fans on sites like 4Chan and Reddit" to join the fight. "This subject is one of the things that we actually really agree on," Oliver said.
And of course, the comedian couldn't resist taking a few light hearted shots at Pai himself, specifically the FCC Chairman's dorky habit of quoting lines from "The Big Lebowski" on Twitter, as well as his strange fascination with an "infamous" oversized Reese's Peanut Butter Cups coffee mug that Pai totes around the office.
Open internet advocates argue that the FCC's net neutrality policy is necessary for maintaining the internet as an open platform for economic growth, online innovation, citizen empowerment, political organizing and free speech. And these activists are mobilizing a grassroots effort to resist Pai's plan, which will face an initial vote during the Republican-controlled FCC's May meeting later this month.
The nation's largest broadband companies oppose the FCC's policy because it treats them as "common carriers" under the Title II of the Communications Act, a strict regulatory classification that subjects the industry to strong FCC oversight. Pai has argued that the FCC's policy has caused a decrease in broadband capital investment, but public interest groups vigorously dispute that assertion.
Open internet advocates, who face an uphill battle in their effort to resist Pai's plan to roll back the FCC's net neutrality protections, were grateful to have Oliver's support.
"Once again, John Oliver nails it on the importance of strong open internet rules for our democracy and to prevent broadband price gouging," Chris Lewis, Vice President at DC-based digital rights group Public Knowledge, said in a statement late Sunday. "His wit revealed the hypocrisy of FCC Chairman Pai's effort to pad the pockets of cable and broadband monopolies by dismantling essential protections against internet discrimination."
"It's time for the public to weigh in and tell Chairman Pai, Congress and the White House to keep their hands off the open internet," Lewis added.
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