John Oliver Unleashes Robocall Hell On FCC Commissioners

John Oliver

UPDATED with video: John Oliver is robocalling all FCC commissioners, including his nemesis, FCC chairman Ajit Pai, to protest Pai’s decision not to attack the menace that keeps growing.

Thanks to new tactics, which Oliver detailed on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, robocalling is only getting worse. Some pundits estimate they will soon account for half of American’s mobile phone calls.

This, Oliver said, is a big problem for consumers because we have to use these phones. “We can’t go back to a time when people would just shout their message into a jar, and then mail that jar across country,” he joked. Because, of course, that was a terrible system and “only marginally more accurate than having AT&T now.”

“Oh, you like that, business daddy?!” Oliver taunted his new bosses. “Johnny’s acting up again!”

The FCC could do something about all the robocalling, but unfortunately the current chair is Ajit Pai, Oliver said.

Pai says the right things, calling robocalls a blight. But Pai is opposed to rules that would curtail the calls and was happy when what rules were there got overturned. That’s despite the fact 60% of all complaints to the FCC are about robocalls, Oliver reported, citing CBS News.

Oliver listed many ways in which the chairman has failed to fix the problem.

Worse yet, pundits expect Pai to bow to pressure from telemarketers and banks to draw up a new, narrower definition of what constitutes auto-dialing, limiting what would count as a robocall. At which point the number of nuisance calls would skyrocket.

“If only there was a way to get the FCC’s attention,” Oliver mused.

If someone had the phone numbers of, say, all FCC commissioners, including Ajit Pai, “because then you could hypothetically set up a program to robocall those numbers every 90 minutes,” Oliver dreamed, with a message saying:

Hi FCC! This is John from Customer Service. Congratulations! You’ve just won a chance to lower robocalls in America today. Sorry, but I am a live person. Robocalls are incredibly annoying, and the person who can stop them is you! Talk to you again in 90 minutes. Here’s some bagpipe music:

“Yes, FCC, we meet again old friend,” Oliver said, addressing the agency he previously had urged viewers to contact and protest plans to dump net neutrality. That 2014 call to action crashed the FCC’s comments system.

“This time, unlike our past encounters, I don’t actually need to ask hordes of real people to bombard you with messages,” Oliver announced happily. “Because, with the miracle of robocalling, I can now do it all by myself!”

Robocalling is so easy it only took the late-night show’s tech guy 15 minutes to work out how to do it, he reported.

Then Oliver pressed a big red button and the robocalling got underway.

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