"Our Top Story Tonight Concerns The Internet"

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[Commentary] “Our top story tonight concerns the Internet.” That may sound like us, but, in fact, it is the first line in a 12 minute sketch by comedian John Oliver during the June 1 edition of his new HBO show, Last Week Tonight.

And in those 12 minutes, Oliver did what even he said was impossible -- he made the network neutrality debate accessible and interesting.

Oliver, a long time “correspondent” on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, used nearly half his program to highlight the dangers of the Federal Communications Commission proposal to allow broadband service providers to charge content providers “more money for service that isn't entirely awful,” as Jordan Zakarin wrote in The Wrap.

Oh, funnyman, you might be able to get people to laugh at the arcane workings of government policymaking, but you can’t expect to get them to do anything about it. But Oliver tried anyway. He asked the Internet's worst “trolls” to take the "badly spelled vile" they normally pump into YouTube comments and send it the FCC's way -- all in the name of net neutrality. He asked commenters to channel their anger for the greater good by taking advantage of the FCC's open comment period.

"This is the moment you were made for," Oliver said. "We need you to get out there and for once in your lives focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction. Seize your moment, my lovely trolls. Turn on caps lock and fly, my pretties."

Ha ha, funny, funny. No way this impact’s Washington policymaking, right? Well, um… by 3:45 on June 2, the FCC tweeted out: “We’ve been experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system due to heavy traffic. We’re working to resolve these issues quickly.”

Welcome to the latest lesson in the public’s ongoing education of the Beltway, a course titled “Don’t Mess With the Internet.” But network neutrality isn’t the only nerve Oliver hit in his sketch. Oliver highlighted a recording of Comcast CEO Brian Roberts pointing out that Comcast and Time Warner Cable do not compete in any US markets.

We’ve already heard a lot about cable companies/ISPs having too much control over how content is delivered to their customers. And so it was quite a week in the ongoing debate over the Open Internet.


"Our Top Story Tonight Concerns The Internet"