FCC Site Swamped Following Comedian’s Net Neutrality TV Speech

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said its online commenting system for a proposal related to Internet neutrality experienced technical problems due to “heavy traffic”, after a British comedian on US TV urged Internet “trolls” to flock to the site.

Comedian John Oliver spent 13 minutes on his HBO programme, “Last Week Tonight,” criticising the FCC proposal, which includes a provision allowing businesses to pay Internet service providers for faster content delivery, and suggested that the term “network neutrality” be changed to “preventing cable company fuckery”.

Internet ‘trolls’

Addressing himself directly to Internet “trolls”, Oliver suggested that the FCC’s 120-day open commenting period on the “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet” measure was an opportunity for them to turn their “indiscriminate rage” to a “useful” purpose.

“Seize your moment, my lovely trolls, turn on caps lock, and fly my pretties!” he said. Recordings of the programme circulated widely on video sharing sites, with YouTube saying one copy of the video had been viewed more than 1.5 million times by Wednesday morning.

The FCC’s commenting website began experiencing problems after the programme aired, but the organisation said it wasn’t necessarily a direct result of Oliver’s comments.

“We’ve been experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system due to heavy traffic,” the FCC said on its Twitter feed on Monday.

Site crash

The FCC’s chief information officer, David Bray, said in a Twitter post on Monday that it was “not clear” whether the problem was an effect of Oliver’s programme, pointing out that the system in question is more than 10 years old.

On Tuesday morning Bray said the system “looked fine internally”, although some users continued to report problems accessing it.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a recent tweet that the proposal has received more than 64,400 comments and 301,000 emails in the past 30 days.

An FCC official told IT journal Ars Technica that the site was “down for a couple of hours” on Monday “due to high volumes of traffic”.

The FCC is accepting comments via email at openinternet@fcc.gov. The initial commenting period lasts until 15 July, with reply comments to be accepted until 10 September.

The proposal was most recently revised last month, following a backlash against an earlier version that had been published in April.

The most recent version keeps the provisions under which businesses can pay ISPs to get their content delivered faster, but adds clarification on what FCC means under “commercially reasonable” terms. The document also claims to offer more protection to consumers and young companies.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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