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John Oliver Explains 'Net Neutrality' With a Few Choice Words

John Oliver Explains 'Net Neutrality' With a Few Choice Words

If your eyes have a tendency to glaze over when politicians and pundits start wheezing on about Net neutrality, you might want to give John Oliver's take on the subject a listen. You're not likely to find the lesson boring. The administration's appointment of former cable company lobbyist Tom Wheeler to chair the FCC, for example, was like "needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo," Oliver said.

By Richard Adhikari E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
06/03/14 1:06 PM PT

Sectors of society ranging from public interest groups to Google and Facebook oppose the United States Federal Communications Commissions' mid-May passage of new Net neutrality rules.

However, they're going about the issue all wrong, comedian John Oliver said in a rant on Net neutrality.

"The cable companies have figured out the great truth of America: If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring," Oliver said. "That's why advocates should not be talking about protecting Net neutrality; they should call it preventing cable company f*ckery, because that's what it is."

The FCC will take public comment on the issue for 120 days from mid-May.

Oliver's rant has gone viral, with more than 825,000 views and counting, and his call to his audience to email their opinions to the FCC's in-box, openinternet@fcc.gov, reportedly sparked enough responses to take down the commission's website for a few hours on Monday.

More on Oliver's Discourse

A two-tier system as posited by the new Net neutrality rules "won't be Usain Bolt and Usain Bolt on a motorbike; there will be Usain Bolt and Usain bolted to an anchor," Oliver said.

He painted Comcast's throttling Netflix's download speeds during negotiations as "a Mob shakedown."

However, the dynamic for the Internet so far has been best effort, Mike Jude, Stratecast program manager at Frost & Sullivan, told the E-Commerce Times.

"If the network is overloaded, you suffer with everybody else. If you're trying to guarantee a quality of experience over a large service portfolio. the quality of experience is important," Jude explained. That's why Comcast had to charge Netflix extra.

Net Politics and the Money Trail

"Verizon wants a two-tier system so badly they sued the government to force the rule change that's currently being discussed," Oliver said.

Meanwhile, Comcast spent more than US$18 million on lobbying, second only to defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

"So, just to be clear: The ranking of who buys government influence is, number one, the military-industrial complex, and, number two, the provider of Lizard Lick Towing," Oliver remarked.

The teaming up of large corporations with anticorporate opponents to oppose the new rules is "basically Lex Luthor knocking on Superman's apartment door and going, 'Listen, I know we have our differences but we have got to get rid of that arsehole in Apt. 3B,'" Oliver suggested.

The Possibility of Redemption

The cable companies are cozy with Washington, the clearest example being the appointment of Tom Wheeler, formerly a cable and wireless companies lobbyist, as the FCC's chairman, Oliver pointed out.

Wheeler's FCC appointment "is a wonderful chance for redemption," said former FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who is now a special adviser to Common Cause.

However, "people have a right to wonder" how Wheeler's past is going to play out and affect his job as FCC chairman, Copps told the E-Commerce Times.

"I'm hopeful he will realize he has a whole new constituency that's the American people," he added, but the talk about pay prioritization in the new rules "is not encouraging."

Fight the Power!

The public should be vocal in its opposition, and "I'm hoping there will be ... a blowback," Copps said.

However, "ranting and raving via email isn't going to change things," Mark Cooper, research director at the Consumer Federation of America, told the E-Commerce Times.

The FCC can allow private negotiations between content distribution networks and cable and telecom companies and then decide whether those negotiations are commercially reasonable, impose a very limited use of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 on the relationship between CDNs and telecoms networks, or put the carriers under full Title II rules for data transmission, Copps suggested.

"I can guarantee you the FCC will decide on one or more of these mechanisms," he predicted, "and it will be written into order by the end of the year."


Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.


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