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FCC Website ‘Attacked’ After John Oliver Net Neutrality Call To Arms

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

US regulator claims website attack, hours after British comedian urges people to protest against rule change

The Federal Communications Commission has claimed that its website was attacked on Sunday night with multiple distributed denial of service attacks (DdoSs).

The US communications regulator claim was made just hours after HBO’s John Oliver used his ‘Last Week Tonight’ TV show to urge viewers to go to the FCC site to post comments in support of current net neutrality regulations.

The current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump, has pledged to reserve the landmark net neutrality rules that were delivered under the former Obama administration, which safeguards against a two speed Internet.

MWC 2017 FCC Ajit PaiNet Neutrality

On Monday morning, FCC Chief Information Officer Dr. David Bray responded to the cause of delays experienced by consumers recently trying to file comments on the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).

“Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos),” claimed Dr Bray. “These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host.”

“These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC,” he added. “While the comment system remained up and running the entire time, these DDoS events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments.

“We have worked with our commercial partners to address this situation and will continue to monitor developments going forward,” he said.

But critics claim the FCC is mistaken, as the alleged DDoS attacks against ECFS took place just hours after British comedian John Oliver called on viewers to register their opposition to the actions of Ajit Pai.

Oliver on his ‘Last Week Tonight’ TV show pointed out that Pai is a former lawyer with Verizon, an ISP that had opposed Obama’s net neutrality regulations that were introduced in February 2015.

Oliver explained how Pai, who tends to show off an enormous mug of coffee during his press conferences, is now considering reserving the principle that ISPs should treat all legal content and applications equally and not block or slow content.

Indeed, he said that Pai has pledged to take a “weed whacker” to those rules, and instead wants ISPs to voluntarily agree to not obstruct or slow consumer access to web content.

Pai wants ISPs to write this pledge into their terms of service, but Oliver pointed out that these terms are rarely read, and can rewritten when it suits the ISP.

Known Campaigner

Oliver has previous form here and is a well known campaigner for net neutrality.

Three years ago he triggered a massive reaction when he did a segment on net neutrality that caused technical problems for the FCC after viewers left over 4 million comments on the FCC website.

Oliver this week however showed viewers how the FCC has now made it much harder and more complex for people to register their opposition to the net neutrality changes.

In response, he offered a shortcut to the commission’s comment form after he brought the domain www.gofccyourself.com.

He urged people to use this domain to visit the FCC site and leave comments in favour of strong net neutrality rules.

Proponents of network neutrality have long said it is necessary to keep the Internet from devolving into multiple tiers that depended on users’ ability to pay for preferential speeds. And the former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, has previously warned commissioners against removing the net neutrality rules.

Last month the Internet Association, which represents leading tech firms, bluntly warned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to repeal net neutrality rules.

Quiz: Do you understand the language of the Internet?