John Oliver, as a result of his most recent show broadcast on May 7, Last Week Tonight, has caught some of the flak regarding a DDoS attack which crashed the Federal Communications Commission website the following day. This has seemingly brought more questions than answers to the forefront of a growing concern over Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pai’s controversial stance on net neutrality and the implications of reversing what it means to have a neutral internet.
There is no doubt that net neutrality is in trouble, as several previous attempts have been made to abolish the law and certainly more will ensue. John Oliver asked Adam Nyerere Bahner, known as Tay Zonday from the famous internet meme “Chocolate Rain,” to explain to the audience what the implications of a non-neutral internet would be like to internet users by describing internet fast lanes and slow lanes — a move which could allow certain corporations and entities to pay more for priority speeds to their services.
“Net neutrality is the idea that your pipe to the internet, whether that is your cable internet connection, your LTE wireless internet connection, however, you are receiving information via the internet that pipeline to the internet, is not allowed to arbitrarily pick favorites in terms of the content you consume. For example, if you like to use Google search and your roommate likes to use Bing search, your internet service provider can’t say, ‘Well, Bing is paying us a lot of money, so we’re going to slow down Google and Yahoo and their other search engine competitors to make Bing load fast.'”
John Oliver replied, “He’s right, although that’s clearly just a hypothetical,” playfully adding, “There’s clearly no such search engine as Bing, or maybe there is I don’t know that…” met with audience laughter. “I’m calling upon all of you, the internet’s time wasters and troublemakers, to join me… I need you to do this. Once more unto the breach, my friends!” Oliver remarked. There were dire undertones in the spirit of his satirical tone, but with obvious regard to the severity surrounding the issue.
Despite the Federal Communications Commission exonerating John Oliver of responsibility, it is clear that the Trump administration has net neutrality in its crosshairs and will continue to make it a priority to change legislation which could spell the end of a digital frontier, where the average citizen could have less impact online. This could look similar to how Super PACs can dramatically influence election results. Perhaps Oliver’s large audience is gaining more awareness of the gravity and implication of such policy reversals or changes, as his previous episode, broadcast on April 23 featuring Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, pulled in 1.19 million viewers.
No matter how you utilize the internet, modifications to net neutrality are likely to affect everyone. Gamers, YouTube, Twitch, and even Netflix streamers, as well as many unknown niches, are sure to be affected if they have not been already. The ramifications are unlikely to be positive, and in the digital age where access to information is at an all-time high to the widest audience in the history of mankind, there is nothing good that is likely to come of it. Perhaps John Oliver merely fired the shot heard round the world for our century, it remains to be seen how the Federal Communications Commission will respond to it.
[Featured Image by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Images, File]