You know what America hates more than an exposed nipple? The end of net neutrality! And so, we bid a fond farewell to Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl halftime show show, in which her right breast made its national debut, and which, until this week, held the record for most comments ever received by the Federal Communications Commission on a single topic. The net neutrality fracas is now up to about 1.48 million comments.
We blame Internet Slowdown day. Today, major tech companies including Netflix, Kickstarter, Mozilla, reddit, Vimeo, etc., are including slow-moving icons on their sites, to illustrate what they argue will happen if the FCC doesn’t impose tougher regulations. September 15 is the deadline for comments on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s open Internet proposal – which stops short of banning cable and phone companies from favoring some content providers.
The FCC is re-thinking its rules after a D.C. court of appeals remanded Internet regulations the commission passed in 2010. FCC is considering the set of rules proposed by Wheeler, which could allow Internet service providers to offer faster service to content providers — at a price. Critics charge this flies in the face of net neutrality — a widely held principle that all traffic should be treated equally online.
The fight to retain net neutrality got a big shot in the arm back in June when John Oliver issued a call to action on the subject, on his new HBO show Last Week Tonight. Response to Oliver’s call to action appeared to crash the FCC’s comments system — though a commission rep was telling reporters back when that it was unclear if there was a connection.
In his report on net neutrality, Oliver noted Wheeler is the guy who used to head the cable companies’ lobbying efforts — which Oliver likened to hiring a dingo to babysit your infant.
On that June 1st episode of his HBO show, Oliver said cable companies are trying to create an unequal playing field for Internet speeds, but they’re doing it so boringly that most news outlets aren’t covering it. Oliver explained the controversy, and urged viewers to voice their displeasure to the FCC: “I would like to address Internet commenters out there directly. Good evening, monsters. This may be the moment you’ve spent your whole lives training for….For once in your life, we need you to channel that anger — that badly spelled bile that you normally reserve for unforgiveable attacks on actresses you seem to think have put on weight, or politicians that you disagree with, or photos of your ex-girlfriend getting on with her life… We need you to get out and, for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction. Seize your moment my lovely trolls, turn on caps lock, and fly my pretties, fly, fly!
A few days later, Oliver told CBS This Morning his show did not not crash the FCC‘s website when it did its “deep dive” story about the FCC and net neutrality the previous Sunday. “We didn’t crash their web site, Charlie — that’s a huge accusation,” Oliver told Charlie Rose after Rose reported that Oliver’s show had done just that. “We merely pointed people to their website and told them why they should be angry about it, and they went in droves.”