On Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver paid homage to an old segment, out of necessity. Back in 2014, net neutrality was a big topic of conversation, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was considering how to proceed with regulations on the internet after their prior ones were struck down in court. There was a huge debate about what the best path forward was, and Oliver firmly took the side of an internet where all content reaches your home at the same speed. Now, under President Trump, the topic's back up for debate — and it's worth watching Oliver's 2014 segment on net neutrality as it makes an unfortunate comeback.
In 2014, the FCC had adopted a lighter regulatory framework, but after public outcry called for stronger rules, the agency decided to classify internet service providers like telephone providers and implement stronger rules by that following winter. The question, then, was how much of an impact Oliver had on the matter. In his 2014 video, he called on viewers to contact the FCC via their website to share their views on the matter. And it worked so well that he crashed their website.
Now, the same thing has happened this year following Trump's appointment to FCC chair Ajit Pai, who is a former Verizon lawyer and big opponent of net neutrality. Pai wants to reverse the regulations on the internet to benefit internet service providers, the companies that connect the web to your house. This time around, Oliver created a website called GoFCCYourself.com, which redirects viewers to the FCC comments section, just like last time. Hopefully, it has the same result this time (beyond the server crashes).
Last time, it had such an effect that even TMZ was chasing down Oliver to talk about it. "He's the guy who brought down the FCC's website," the voiceover says. "You did it, John!" They then do a man-on-the-street interview with Oliver. "I didn't do anything," Oliver told the interviewer. "People did it. I just merely pointed out a problem." Hopefully his pointing it out a second time has a similar reaction from his viewers and internet users alike.
It's a big deal, as Oliver explained back in 2014, and again on Sunday. "Net neutrality is hugely important," Oliver argued. "Essentially, it means that all data has to be treated equally — no matter who creates it. It's why the internet is a weirdly level playing field and start-ups can supplant established brands." He gave the example of Facebook replacing MySpace, which replaced Friendster, which replaced having friends in real life.
Yes, sometimes it's easy to take the internet — or "electronic cat database" as he calls it — for granted. But imagine that you're suddenly only able to download what a corporation sends your way. Surely it would take most of the fun out of it, right? So tune in to Oliver's 2014 net neutrality video for a reminder of why he made such a good point on Sunday's show, and the real influence your comments can have.