John Oliver is the hero the internet needs right now. Just when new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has targeted net neutrality again–a mere two years after the Commission passed the Open Internet Order–the HBO host brought the subject back into the spotlight again Sunday night for a sharp, incisive and hilarious dissection of Pai’s intention, and a much-needed examination of his ridiculously large coffee mug.
Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine to 2014. Barack Obama was president, and Tom Wheeler, a former cable industry lobbyist, was FCC Chair. Wheeler proposed a set of half-baked rules under the pretense of protecting network neutrality, while also preposterously bending over backwards to allow for what he called “commercially reasonable” discrimination of internet traffic.
While the idea of an internet that is free of any content discrimination, where every audio or video stream is treated equally, isn’t a hard concept to grasp, the wonky details of jargon like “Title II” can make even the biggest nerd’s eyes glaze over. Enter John Oliver.
Fresh off a stint on “The Daily Show,” Oliver was just five episodes into his new HBO show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” when he decided to break down net neutrality for America, turning otherwise turgid policy points into a sparklingly clear and rivetingly funny monologue that anyone could understand. Calling upon his viewers (on HBO and YouTube) to make their displeasure with Wheeler’s half-baked open internet proposal known to the FCC, Oliver effectively broke the FCC’s website. In the end more than 4 million public comments were filed, setting a record, and forcing Wheeler to go back to the drawing board to come up with something real.
Sunday night Oliver broke the FCC website again, by again calling on viewers to give the Commission a piece of their minds, and by providing a shortcut URL that takes you directly to the right page to comment on Chairman Pai’s new anti net-neturality proposal: GoFCCYourself.com
One of the worries that many public interest and net neutrality advocates have had is that this latest attack on net neutrality might get lost in the mix. With so many political jeremiads to worry about, and with the issue returning to the floor only two years later, the concern is that folks will just be too tired and overwhelmed to mobilize in the kind of numbers they did in 2014. So it sure doesn’t hurt to have a popular comedy host create a viral-ready rant in support of the cause.
As I write this Oliver’s net neutrality segment already has over 2 million views. And that’s because, on top of breaking down the policy implications of net neutrality and Title II with aplomb, it’s also funny as hell. Zeroing in on Chairman Pai’s geeky pride in using an absurdly large Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup mug serves as a stark contrast to his free-marketeering history as a Verizon lobbyist.
Watch the segment for yourself. It’s NSFW because of lots of four-letter-words (but who–besides priests and elementary school teachers–doesn’t use these words at work these days, anyway?)
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