FCC’s Website Crashed Following John Oliver’s Net-Neutrality Rant

The comment system was overwhelmed by traffic, but appears to be working again.

National Journal
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Brendan Sasso
June 3, 2014, 7:37 a.m.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion’s web­site tem­por­ar­ily buckled un­der heavy traffic Monday.

The out­age — which ap­peared to be fixed by Tues­day morn­ing — came one day after comedi­an John Oliv­er urged In­ter­net “trolls” to com­ment on the FCC’s net-neut­ral­ity pro­pos­al.

“This might be the mo­ment you’ve spent your whole life train­ing for,” Oliv­er joked Sunday on his HBO show Last Week To­night. “We need you to get out there, and for once in your lives, fo­cus your in­dis­crim­in­ate rage in a use­ful dir­ec­tion.”

He dir­ec­ted com­menters to vis­it the agency’s page at FCC.gov/com­ments.

On Monday af­ter­noon, the FCC tweeted that it was “ex­per­i­en­cing tech­nic­al dif­fi­culties” due to “heavy traffic.” Users who tried to leave a com­ment of­ten re­ceived an er­ror mes­sage or blank page. Kim Hart, an FCC spokes­wo­man, said the site had prob­lems for a “couple of hours” Monday but that there’s no way to know if it was a dir­ect res­ult of Oliv­er’s seg­ment.

Dav­id Bray, the agency’s chief in­form­a­tion of­ficer, sug­ges­ted on Twit­ter Monday that the agency’s out­dated tech­no­logy was ill-equipped to handle the crush of traffic. The sys­tem is more than 10 years old, he wrote.

The agency’s net-neut­ral­ity pro­ceed­ing had 45,193 com­ments by Tues­day morn­ing.

The agency will col­lect pub­lic com­ments on its pro­pos­al for sev­er­al months be­fore en­act­ing fi­nal rules. The FCC has also set up a sep­ar­ate email in­box for com­ments at open­in­ter­net@fcc.gov be­cause of the in­tense pub­lic in­terest in the is­sue.

FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er is try­ing to re­work the agency’s net-neut­ral­ity rules after a fed­er­al court struck down the old reg­u­la­tions earli­er this year. But his pro­pos­al has promp­ted an ex­plo­sion of pub­lic out­rage be­cause it would al­low In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders to charge web­sites for faster ser­vice in some cases. The pro­pos­al would still bar In­ter­net pro­viders from block­ing any web­sites. 

Net-neut­ral­ity ad­voc­ates ar­gue that all In­ter­net traffic should be treated equally.