John Oliver's Net neutrality response swamps FCC

The agency's comment system, accepting public input on proposed Net neutrality rules, buckles after the comedian tells Internet trolls to pile on.

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Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET

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.

They must be laughing hysterically now.

The FCC's online public-comment system stumbled under heavy traffic Monday after comedian John Oliver capped a 13-minute segment about Net neutrality -- the concept that all Internet content should be delivered without preference or discrimination -- with a rallying cry to the Internet's trolls to visit the FCC's website and "focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction."

Net neutrality regulations could have the power to stifle or preserve technological innovation and freedom of speech, as well as influence how quickly you get emails, whether your Netflix streams buffer, and how much you pay for Internet connection and services that exist there.

The clip, from Oliver's HBO program "Last Week Tonight" on Sunday, was shared widely on social networks like Twitter, with the YouTube clip's view count approaching the 700,000 mark. Oliver's program itself was watched by 1 million viewers during its first airing, according to TV by the Numbers, a website that reports television ratings from Nielsen.

After Net neutrality regulations set in 2010 were thrown by a federal appeals court earlier this year, the FCC's next move was watched closely by consumer advocates, Internet companies, service providers and the tech press -- and, increasingly, mainstream consumers sometimes uncertain about what the subject even means. Elements of Wheeler's draft rule were leaked, and public confusion -- about whether these were proposals or instituted rules, what was actually being proposed, and how the Internet works -- were difficult to dispel.

As with any good comedian, Oliver's chief goal was to land solid laughs. For facts about Net neutrality and the FCC's proposals, check coverage from CNET's Marguerite Reardon, who has covered the issues extensively.

Read: Net neutrality debate Part II: What it means to the average Joe

 

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