Three years ago, a fledgling late night program on HBO exploded into the mainstream when it tackled the net neutrality debate by crashing the FCC website. Why? Because Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, a former Daily Show correspondent, wanted concerned viewers to flood the Federal Communications Commission with their comments or complaints about attempts by their agency, various corporations and the U.S. Congress to throttle perceived internet freedoms. Oliver and company didn’t get everything right, of course, but their viral efforts resulted in actual legislation and a surprisingly loud public outcry.
However, thanks to Donald Trump’s appointees with knowledge of the matter, current protections for net neutrality are in danger. Especially new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former counsel to Verizon whose name has popped up in Senate legislation regarding consumer privacy and expensive Wi-Fi on flights. He’s not the most popular person among net neutrality advocates, including Oliver. Citing a CNBC report describing Pai as “anti-regulation” and “pro-merger,” the Last Week Tonight host responded to his apparently wanting to “take a weed whacker to current FCC rules” accordingly:
“‘Days are numbered’ and ‘take a weed whacker’ are serial killer talk, so that is pretty ominous. When the code of federal regulations looks out of its window at night, there’s just Ajit Pai standing silently, holding his weed whacker, waiting for his chance.”
“The dangerous thing about Pai,” he continued, “is that he presents himself as a fun, down-to-earth nerd.” As a result, Oliver argued, the new FCC Chairman (and the anti-net neutrality administration he works for) is more likely to rollback Title II protections put in place under President Barack Obama. Besides, who in their right mind can resist a guy who quotes The Big Lebowski in his tweeted responses to critics?