Comedian’s Comments Crash FCC Comment Page

June 6, 2014
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By Shannon Perry

The Net Neutrality debate of the Spring has overflown into the Summer. Tom Wheeler, the current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has come under fire from multiple sources ever since he proposed establishing Internet “fast lanes” to address the conflict between Internet service providers and companies that transmit high volumes of data to consumers. Under the proposed rules, entertainment providers would pay additional fees to Internet service providers to achieve faster data transmission to customers. A letter signed by dozens of tech companies, a crowdsourcing campaign from a well-known entrepreneur, and Senatorial complaints  are just a few of the objections that have recently targeted Mr. Wheeler’s proposal.

On June 1st, John Oliver, former reporter for the Colbert Report, offered his explanation of the Net Neutrality debate on his weekly comedic news show, Last Week Tonight.

Oliver’s spiel ended with a request that users visit the FCC’s website to comment on the proposed fast lanes, which have been available for comment since early May. As of June 4th, the fast lane idea had received nearly 50,000 comments, many of which came after Oliver’s show. In fact, the FCC received so many comments on Monday that its website went down for several hours. A little bit of context – according to NPR, the next most popular FCC measure received almost 2,000 reviews, and the comment period extends until June 27th.

The Net Neutrality debate is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, but the barrage of public dissension reflects the current negative public opinion surrounding governmental involvement on the web. Given the apparent opposition to the proposal, it seems unlikely that the FCC will adopt fast lanes – at the very least, the proposal will first need to undergo substantial changes.