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John Oliver Skewers Critics in Latest Plea for Net Neutrality

Variety logo Variety 5/15/2017 Ted Johnson
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John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” posted an online update to his May 7 call to flood the FCC with comments urging the agency to retain its current net neutrality rules.

More than 1.6 million comments were received “from all quarters of the political spectrum,” Oliver said, as he established a website, gofccyourself.com, that directs users to an FCC page for the public to chime in with their opinions.

But critics — including Liz Harrington of the Washington Free Beacon — questioned just how legitimate some of the comments were. Oliver, however, said that 128,000 of the comments were identical ones that were anti-net neutrality. He also said that the use of spam bots to file comments was puzzling, since so many were anti-net neutrality and “you would assume that the bots would be in favor of a free and open internet.”

The FCC will vote on Thursday on whether to launch a process that could roll back to regulatory foundation for the current rules, which are designed to ensure that internet providers treat all content traffic equally. It it passes the Thursday vote, the agency will start a proceeding to collect public comments throughout the summer, with a final vote expected in the fall.

Oliver also noted that there were some racist comments, and said, “Let me just say, if any of those came from anyone who watches this show, stop it. Do not f—ing do that. Writing racist things on the internet is not how you win the net neutrality debate — it’s how you win the presidency.”

The agency is currently in a one-week “sunshine” period, in which any comments being filed on the proposal will not be part of the official record. Oliver said that the show’s net neutrality site will go to a landing page until then, but he encouraged viewers to submit comments after the vote on Thursday.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called for reversing his predecessor’s move to reclassify the internet as a common carrier, known as “Title II.” In 2015, then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and two of his fellow Democratic commissioners voted in favor of reclassification, giving them the regulatory footing to pass a robust set of net neutrality rules.

The commission now includes two Republicans and one Democrat — meaning that Pai in all likelihood would have the votes to repeal reclassification. Pai has not said what types of rules he would like to see in place of the current ones, and wants to put that up for public comment as well.

Related video: John Oliver takes on Donald Trump and crashes FCC website (via Buzz60)

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