The battle for net neutrality is being fought on the FCC’s website

The battle for net neutrality is being fought on the FCC's website

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the concept of net neutrality, it can be best described in this way. Let’s use popular streaming site Netflix as an example. Netflix is a bandwidth hog when it comes to internet service providers. Most users need a pretty fast connection in order to use Netflix. Now say that internet providers started offering tiered services where you had to pay extra in order to get a fast connection to Netflix. Or it could be other popular sites like Facebook or Gmail. Net neutrality says that all internet traffic should be treated equally. Proponents of net neutrality wanted the FCC to regulate ISPs like a common carrier which would prevent ISPs from favoring certain web traffic over others. Opponents of net neutrality don’t want the government interfering with internet in general under the belief that once the government starts regulating the internet they will never stop regulating the internet, leading to accusations of possible censorship. Under the Obama administration, the FCC ruled that ISPs were in fact common carriers, however, under the Trump administration, those regulations have largely been gutted. This is a battle that’s been going on for years but it reached a fever pitch recently when a large salvo was fired against the Trump-controlled FCC the other night.

It all started when political humorist John Oliver started talking to his audience about net neutrality. On his HBO show, he asked his viewers to go to the FCC website and leave their comments about how they feel about net neutrality. This included Oliver promoting a humorous but slightly off-color URL in order to lead his viewers to exactly where they needed to be on the FCC website. This led to so many users flooding the website, that it was basically knocked offline due to all the traffic it was receiving.

This led to the FCC calling Oliver’s campaign a denial of service attack, or DDoS for short. Normally a DDoS attack is a form of cyber-vandalism used in order to intentionally knock a site offline with a flood of traffic. The difference with Oliver’s campaign is that he wanted his viewers to leave legitimate comments. This has led opponents of net neutrality to fire back by launching a number of automated scripts called bots to swarm the FCC’s website, leaving comments in support of the Trump administration’s handling of net neutrality. In case you were wondering, yes that sounds more like a DDoS attack than what John Oliver’s viewers were doing.

Unfortunately, this is the way of the internet. When one side of an argument starts speaking up about an issue, the other side tries to shout them down. In the end, while Oliver’s actions may have been well intended, this will ultimately have no effect on the net neutrality debate, thanks to many of the players involved acting like petulant children.

If you want to make real change about net neutrality, the best way is to write or call your representatives in Congress and let them know how you feel. Congress still operates in an old school way and gives letters and phone calls more weight than e-mails and online petitions. Also, to better get your point across, always be respectful when dealing with politicians whether they deserve it or not. If you’re rude or ranting in your communication with them, your voice will largely be disregarded.