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John Oliver rants about net neutrality again, FCC site goes down

Commentary: With the arrival of a new FCC chairman, the HBO comedian returns to his favorite subject and mocks Bing in the process.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Now Playing: Watch this: 'Last Week Tonight' takes on the FCC, crashes its site...
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Three years ago, John Oliver crashed the Federal Communication Commission's website.

Well, he encouraged his viewers to do it, after he explained that net neutrality was threatened by large corporations.

It seemed to have an effect. However, the Trump administration seems rather keen on rolling back anything the Obama administration supported, which includes the idea that internet service providers can't pick favorites when it comes to allowing access to pipes.

For example, it's not fair to favor, say, Google over Bing, Oliver offered up on his "Last Week Tonight" show Sunday night.

"Although that's clearly a hypothetical," Oliver said, as "there's clearly no such search engine as Bing."

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai -- a former Verizon lawyer -- has already declared that he wants to dismiss net neutrality "with a smile," and the use of a Weedwacker.

On Sunday, therefore, Oliver accused him of uttering "serial killer talk." He mocked Pai's tendency to quote "The Big Lebowski" and his Reese's Peanut Butter Cup mug.

Oliver accused Pai of mock-naivete. He said that he uses fallacious arguments -- such as the notion that more regulation leads to less investment.

Then he turned his own Weedwacker onto President Donald Trump.

"He doesn't seem to have any idea of what this is," said Oliver. He used the example of a Trump tweet that said: "Obama's attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media."

oliverreese.jpg

John Oliver and a mug.

Last Week Tonight/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

"That's the exact opposite of what it did," insisted Oliver.

You know how this ends, don't you? Oliver incited his viewers to crash the FCC's comments site again. It's a slightly more complicated process. You have to go to fcc.gov/ecfs/search-proceedings and then put in the proceedings number, which is 17-108.

In order to make things simpler, Oliver bought gofccyourself.com. This leads you more easily into the comments page. Oddly enough, by Monday morning, this comments page had crashed (though it appears to have come back online at least for some late Monday morning.)

In a statement Monday, the FCC said its site was subjected to an attack around midnight Eastern Sunday, which was very soon after Oliver's show aired (from 11 to 11:30 p.m. Eastern).

"Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC's comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host," the FCC statement read. It added that there was no attempt to file comments, merely to disrupt the site.

Oliver had appealed to everyone -- even Tom from MySpace -- to participate. Might this have included those who merely harbor ill will?

The FCC's proposals aren't official yet. They will be voted on next month. Currently, the biggest broadband companies aren't in favor of the FCC's views. That's because they might ironically be subject to far greater scrutiny if they're now classified as "common carriers" according to Title II of the Communications Act.

Pai told my colleague Maggie Reardon that he hasn't "made any predetermined judgment, that's the entire purpose of this proceeding, to start this conversation with the American public."

Oh, but now Oliver's gone and got the American public all riled up again. And I fear that they're going to use that pesky open internet to really make a nuisance of themselves.

First published May 8, 10:10 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:24 p.m.: Adds FCC statement about DDoS attack and removes a suggestion that Oliver's show was the direct cause of the FCC site crash.

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