FCC Comments Site Slows After John Oliver’s Commentary

During Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight” on HBO, John Oliver devoted more than 13 minutes, nearly half his show, to explaining the FCC’s proposed Net neutrality rules in a humorous yet detailed fashion. Toward the end of the commentary, he passionately called upon Internet commenters to direct their “indiscriminate rage” toward the FCC’s online feedback system. Viewers responded, and the next day the FCC tweeted that its site was experiencing technical difficulties due to the heavy traffic.

“When the Federal Communications Commission released its proposed Net neutrality regulations, Chairman Tom Wheeler said the founding fathers were likely looking down on the public outcry over the draft rules and smiling,” notes CNET. “They must be laughing hysterically now.”

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“Here’s the thing, Net neutrality is actually hugely important,” said Oliver. “Essentially it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who created it. It’s why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field and startups can supplant established brands. That’s how Facebook supplanted Myspace, which supplanted Friendster, which supplanted actually having any friends… The Internet in its current form is not broken, and the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that.”

He went on to criticize the two-tiered approach to Internet speeds, poked fun at CEOs who have come up with clever wordplay to avoid using the word “monopoly,” compared the slowing of speeds as leverage for more money to a “Mob shakedown,” and suggested the appointment of Wheeler was “the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.”

By Monday afternoon, the FCC tweeted: “We’ve been experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system due to heavy traffic. We’re working to resolve these issues quickly.”

And a few hours later: “We’re still experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system. Thanks for your patience as we work to resolve the issues.”

“Whoops, it seems that you’ve all crashed part of the FCC website,” tweeted Oliver’s account in response. “I hope you’re proud of yourselves.”

Oliver’s HBO program had one million viewers during its initial airing. According to The Wall Street Journal, by noon yesterday, the online video of Oliver’s commentary “had over 700,000 views and the FCC proposal on Net neutrality had received 45,000 comments, with some saying ‘John Oliver told me to do this.’”