prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Net Neutrality and the Jester

Posted by prof e on February 6, 2015

Net neutrality, the idea that the internet should be an open network where internet service providers cannot restrict or prioritize content from any particular source, is one step closer to becoming the law of the land. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler outlined his position in an editorial published by Wired magazine, and barring any last-minute hijinks it now appears that the Obama administration will prevail in a long, drawn-out, battle with those (mainly large telecom providers) who have argued that net neutrality will stifle technological innovation and reduce incentives for expanding service.

In late 2014 President Obama staked out his position in a short video calling for the FCC to act to implement net neutrality regulations. In order for the FCC to step in they would need to reclassify the internet as falling under Title II of the Telecommunications Act–essentially treating access to the internet as a public service utility not unlike your phone, water, or electric service. Many argue that the internet has become such an essential part of our daily lives that to be without it is unthinkable.

As I was reading an article in the WSJ about the ongoing debate I came across a paragraph that caught my eye…

At the same time, Mr. Ammori tried to build wider public support for net neutrality. Last May, he spoke with a researcher for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, ” the HBO comedy series. On June 1, Mr. Oliver unleashed a 13-minute rant in an episode of the show, comparing Mr. Wheeler to a dingo and encouraging viewers to bombard the FCC with comments.

If you’re not familiar with John Oliver, he was a former correspondent for The Daily Show.  Now that he has his own show he continues to poke fun at serious topics, just as he did when he worked for Jon Stewart. Below is the video by Oliver.

The video was produced and posted in the summer of 2014, so the framing of the debate does not take into account the developments that have transpired since. But the video does two things very well: 1) it explains in easily accessible terms the nature of the debate, and 2) it allows us a few laughs in the process. That may be the genius of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and now John Oliver. Like court jesters of old, they make their point and wield tremendous influence while we laugh along; while all too often remaining oblivious to the subtleties of their arguments.


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