Back in June, you may remember Last Week Tonight With John Oliver had a great bit on net neutrality. Oliver poked fun at the FCC commissioners; he compared Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former telecom lobbyist, to a dingo. The internet had a laugh, and the day after, FCC employees went back to work.
As part of a Freedom of Information Act request sent by The Verge, the FCC sent email exchanges between employees that show how the FCC responded. The reviews: mostly positive, with some reservations.
Deborah Taylor Tate, a former commissioner who's now a "special envoy" at the International Telecommunication Union, saw the video and sent a free-verse email alert to her old colleagues.
Comm O was on a comic show
Last week tonight
He should watch it!!!
June 3. 930 pm
Mob shakedown etc goes on for 20 mini
Comcast stories etc
Called Wheeler a dingo
Who watches this?
Brian Roberts also lambasted also
"Comm O" apparently refers to Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who takes some heat in Oliver's video; the "mob shakedown" refers to a joke Oliver makes about Comcast's negotiations with Netflix. "George Foot" is likely about a telecom lawyer who appears in the video (actually spelled "Foote").
Another email chain started with Anne Lucey, senior vice president of regulatory policy at CBS, who sent a link to the video to FCC employees Courtney Reinhard and Erin McGrath. They have a laugh at jokes about cable companies never showing up on time, and Reinhard suggests those companies weren't pleased about the video. Reinhard has since left her FCC position for a new job; she's now vice president of federal government relations at Verizon.
Lucey: Rather long, but quite entertaining ....... and your boss is featured -at around 1:18...!
McGrath: We were watching this this morning. He is show twice, The second time is toward the end.
Reinhard: We had a good laugh about it. The cable companies... not so much.
Lucey: Love the Monopoly car....!
Reinhard: That was classic. I loved the comparison of the promise to comply with the NN
Lucey: Ha. And Nutflix pretty funny, too. Who knew NN could be fodder for comedy?
McGrath: I liked the Usain Bolt graphic. Then again, am stil touchy about the not showing up during specified hours thing. The whole clip was pretty funny.
But soon Oliver's call to action brought thousands of visitors to the FCC website, apparently causing it to shut down. In another conversation, Lucey forwards a CNET article called "John Oliver's Net neutrality response swamps FCC."
Reinhard: This cracks me up!
Lucey: Read via the link -it has the tweets the FCC sent out alerting the public to the jam-up
McGrath: Don't eat ma baby!
Lucey: Ok, gals, I wanna set the record straight: The dingo REALLY DID eat that woman's baby.
McGrath: Yes, I know.
Reporters started flooding the FCC with questions about Oliver, according to the documents, and the FCC fielded dozens of media requests, telling reporters it was unclear if Oliver had crashed the site, but that they had experienced a traffic spike. One reporter asked:
Any comment from the chairman on John Oliver's suggestion that he protesteth too much and might ACTUALLY be a dingo?"
To which an FCC spokesperson responds:
Hey John, no, no comment on that :)
Two weeks later, Oliver made a followup video about the FCC's response.
Commissioner O'Rielly seemed to take it in stride, sending some of the staff a Recode article about the video and ribbing Chairman Wheeler about a press conference. (There's not enough context to say whether it was in good humor.) The entire note was a subject line:
after seeing the press conference, everyone could have this coming...unless maybe a dingo.
You can read the documents below: