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John Oliver's Rallying Cry Over Net Neutrality Buries FCC In Public Comments (VIDEO)

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood June 3, 2014 at 11:48AM

Net neutrality: it's the issue that just won't go away, and for good reason, since it has the capacity to completely transform the way the Internet works. John Oliver supports the cause for an open Internet in the video below.
John Oliver
Eric Liebowitz/HBO

Net neutrality: it's the issue that just won't go away, and for good reason, since it has the capacity for completely transforming the way the Internet works.  

Remember the huge outcry over SOPA and PIPA, the 2011 bills introduced in the House and Senate that were designed to combat copyright infringement but were criticized as paving the way to an "internet blacklist" by their opponents?  Tech companies lined up against the bills, and public support eventually led to their being shelved.

Supporters of net neutrality argue that service providers (and governments) should treat all traffic equally.  In January, Verizon--which wants the ability to block traffic on local networks based on specific users' profiles and the particular services being accessed--succeeded in convincing a DC court to throw out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules.  Just last month, the FCC voted 3-2 to open a public comments period on the issue, which hasn't gotten nearly the coverage and publicity that the SOPA/PIPA fight received.

John Oliver, the ex-"Daily Show" correspondent who now anchors his own much-lauded news show "Last Week Tonight" on HBO, is not OK with that.  On Sunday, in a 13+ minute segment, while he admitted the issue isn't a sexy one--"The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are 'featuring Sting,' he joked--Oliver emphasized that the issue is "hugely important."

Without net neutrality, he warned, rich telecom companies could "buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone else in the slow lane."  For instance, in February, Netflix's download speeds surged--right after Netflix conceded to demands from Comcast after negotiations between the two companies.  "That has all the ingredients of a mob shakedown," Oliver said, urging his viewers--and Internet lovers everywhere--to go to the FCC's website and "focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction."

Well, it looks like Oliver's going to get his wish.  His "Last Week Tonight" clip was widely shared on social media, wracking up more than 720,000 views on YouTube since Sunday.  And take a look at these two tweets the FCC posted yesterday:

The telecom companies have deep pockets and huge lobbying power in Washington: Verizon spent almost $14 million dollars lobbying lawmakers last year, and has spent more than $3.5 million this year.  And as Oliver points out, they have an even more powerful tool at their disposal: "The cable companies have figured out the great truth of America: If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring."

But the amount of public comment that Oliver's segment seems to have inspired is good news for open Internet advocates.  Stay tuned--this issue is definitely not going away.

Watch John Oliver's full segment from "Last Week Tonight" below.

This article is related to: TV, TV Videos, John Oliver, Television, Television, Television, Last Week Tonight

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.