Did you hear the one about the parents in Australia who needed a babysitter and hired a dingo? That’s the analogy that comedian/commentator John Oliver used on his HBO show last night to characterize what it means to have a former cable industry lobbyist heading the FCC.
I have to admit, I’ve written about Net Neutrality quite a bit in a number of venues and have never found it very funny. But Oliver (his new show is “Last Week Tonight”) ripped the cable industry in a hilarious, 13-minute riff that you really should watch if you care about the future of the Internet. Sometimes humor is the best way to educate people and make an important point.
“Net neutrality. The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are ‘featuring Sting,’” Oliver said. “The Internet in its current form is not broken. And the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that."
On FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, he said: "The guy who used to run the cable industry's lobbying arm is now running the agency tasked with regulating it. That's the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo."
Speaking of the cable companies: "It's almost as if they've agreed to stay out of each other's way like drug cartels." Indeed, Comcast, the number one-cable provider, is trying to buying Time Warner Cable, which is number-two, creating a company that will dominate the market, not just for TV, but for broadband service.
Another serious point is that the cable companies and the big ISPs are moving to change the Internet, giving priority to companies who are willing to pay more for better access. Indeed, Netflix, which saw its connections to consumers slow drastically earlier this year, has already paid extra for Comcast to speed things up, a deal Oliver characterized (rightly, in my view) as a “shakedown.”
That’s really the heart of the fight over “Net Neutrality.” The problem, though, is that it's hard to talk about the subject without being, well, boring. "If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring," said Oliver, while playing tedious footage of hearings on the subject.
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