If you use the internet, this should matter to you.
Last Sunday, former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver leapt into a 13-minute tirade on his new HBO show Last Week Tonight, introducing millions of viewers to the very important, yet often misunderstood concept of net neutrality. The video has since gone viral and – thanks both to Oliver’s pleas and the Reddit community – tens of thousands of internet commenters took to the FCC’s website and crashed the system with their complaints. See the video for yourself here:
It seems the television comic has done the impossible – he has finally gotten the American public as riled up as they should be about cable companies’ encroachment on the free internet. According to NPR, the FCC received 45,000 comments through their official commenting system and another 30,000 emails decrying propositions of tiered access to information across the web. “This is the moment you were made for,” said Oliver, addressing all manner of trolls and internet commenters. “Like Ralph Macchio you’ve been waxing cars and painting fences. Well guess what – now it’s time to do some fucking karate.”
For those of you who haven’t been following the war surrounding net neutrality, here’s the lowdown. We take for granted that all data flowing over the internet is treated equally by service providers. Download speeds remain constant whether we’re browsing Facebook, reading Writtalin articles or streaming movies on bandwidth-heavy sites like Netflix. The FCC, however, is considering a two-tier system that would allow providers to charge an extra fee for faster download speeds. Succinctly put, this is bad.
This proposition has been vilified across the board, inciting rage from both activists and big corporations like Google, Netflix and Amazon. In Oliver’s words, “That’s basically Lex Luthor knocking on Superman’s apartment door and going, ‘Listen, I know we have our differences, but we have got to do something about that asshole in apartment 3B.’” If cable companies like Time Warner and Comcast were able to siphon bandwidth in favor of businesses that can afford to pay, they could effectively shut out start-ups and small businesses from the internet marketplace. And there are too few alternatives for users to turn to. Cable dominates sales of high speed wired service, while DSL is on the decline and wireless broadband offered by mobile companies (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.) can’t match their speed. Basically, we’re stuck with our providers and they’re currently lobbying to solidify their stranglehold on the market.
For the past decade, the FCC has demonstrated that they will punish internet providers for deviating from net neutrality, but in January they lost an important court decision that robbed them of their power to prevent cable companies from creating “fast” and “slow” lanes. The only piece of law that allows them to intervene anymore is called Title II (the boring bit Oliver alludes at early in the video). Yet instead of acting under Title II, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a rule that would permit cable companies to engage in neutrality-obliterating discrimination.
There’s much more technical jargon contributing to the imminent demise of the Open Internet, but that in itself is part of the problem. “The cable companies have figured out the great truth of America,” says Oliver. “If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.”
Thanks to him though, the discussion is now anything but. The FCC will be taking comments on the issue for 120 days, so those who haven’t added their voices to the throng of protest can still do so. If you use the internet daily (and if you’re a living human being, you probably do), this is your chance to “end cable company fuckery.”
Tags : buzzworthy, cable companies, Comcast, FCC, Internet, Internet Culture, Internet Matters, Issues, John Oliver, Last Week Tonight, net neutrality, Netflix, Rant, The Daily Show, Time Warner, Verizon