John Oliver pushes another net neutrality uprising; FCC website affected

Updated with statement from FCC:

A few years ago, John Oliver got people to care about net neutrality. Can he do it again?

The comedian, host of “Last Week Tonight” on HBO, seemed to be causing a strain on the FCC’s website Monday after addressing the latest threat to net neutrality on his show Sunday night.

SiliconBeat was able to follow the link — gofccyourself.com, which Oliver said he bought to redirect people to the FCC’s more complicated URL — to submit comments to the Federal Communications Commission about the topic earlier this morning, but since then its accessibility has been sporadic.

New: The FCC said in a statement Monday that its website was slowed down because it was targeted by “multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos).” The attacks started Sunday at midnight, and “these actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC,” according to the statement. The agency said it will continue to monitor “developments.” End new

Net neutrality — the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally — is under attack again by new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, plus some Republican senators who have introduced a bill to try to kill the rules that protect it. Those rules were adopted in 2015 after a record outpouring of comments and support from the public, thanks in part to Oliver’s bit about the issue at the time.

But that was then, when the FCC Chief was Tom Wheeler, a Democrat whose watered-down plan for net neutrality eventually became more palatable to proponents after then-President Obama and the public weighed in. Also, the Democrats on the commission outnumbered the Republicans.

And this is now: Pai, a Republican who is President Trump’s pick for new FCC chairman, has long been on the side of less regulation — and broadband providers such as his former employer Verizon. The FCC only has three commissioners at the moment: Pai, Republican Michael O’Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn.

Later this month, the FCC could gut the rules that are meant to prevent internet providers from favoring content, or creating slow and fast lanes online.

That’s why Oliver is sounding the alarm again. In his monologue Sunday, he said the president has no clue about what’s at stake, so “sadly, it seems once more, we the people must take this matter into our own hands.”

“Every internet group needs to come together like you successfully did three years ago,” Oliver said. He even called on Trump-supporting “trolls” to send their comments to the FCC, saying net neutrality is the only thing he has in common with them. (They hate him.)

 

The FCC is also hearing from Francis Ford Coppola of “Godfather” fame about the issue. In a letter shared by internet advocacy group Public Knowledge on Sunday, the filmmaker said:

“Since the earliest days when the giant AT&T twice attempted to wrestle control of radio broadcasting and was ultimately prohibited, the FCC has been the hero of our most talented innovators and artists… The Internet was conceived and designed to be a free medium, with network neutrality assured and the resurgent power of big business held in check on behalf of the public’s greater interests. The changes you are making at the FCC will only make the fragile balance between artist and businessman more impossible to maintain.”

 

Photo: Protesters hold a rally in support of net neutrality on May 15, 2014 outside the FCC’s offices in Washington, D.C. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

 

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