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The humorous side of internet governance: top 3 of funny net neutrality explainers

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The humorous side of internet governance: top 3 of funny net neutrality explainers

John Oliver and the FCC

John Oliver's show Last Week Tonight pulled off an impressive feat when it presented a succinct definition of net neutrality, mounted a strong defence for it, started a substantial online campaign to defend it – while being funny and entertaining throughout. The video is now 1,5 years old, but in our opinion, it's still probably the best quick explainer into net neutrality out there.

Context: In the summer of 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the US telecommunications regulator, was planning to allow "internet fast lanes" for those who can afford to pay for it. Furthermore, president Obama chose as the new head of the FCC Tom Wheeler, the former top lobbyist for cable companies, causing critics to argue that the cable companies were basically in a position to oversee their own oversight.

Outcome: Oliver encouraged his audience to send their views in support of net neutrality through FCC's website. After the show aired, the FCC received hunders of thousands of comments, and saw it's website crash seemingly because of the increase in traffic.

Moreover, Oliver's video was widely seen as a key moment in the net neutrality debate. It was one of the drivers that brought the debate into the mainstream and to wider public discussion. In November 2014, president Obama took a public stand on the issue in favour of net neutrality, and called on the FCC to protect it. Ultimately, FCC approved net neutrality rules in February 2015, thus preventing cable companies from creating "fast" and "slow" lanes. The FCC based its ruling on the decision to regulate broadband internet service as a public utility, reclassifying it as a telecommunications service instead of an information service, and thus defining it in the same way as electricity, natural gas, water and sewage are defined.

Highlight quote: "'Net Neutrality': the only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are 'Featuring Sting'."


All India Bakchod and TRAI

An animated debate on net neutrality is currently taking place in India, and some of the best explainers on the situation are those by All India Bakchod, a group that calls itself "India's edgiest comedy collective".

Context: The group has produced three videos so far, the first one (above) discussing Indian telecoms lobbying TRAI, India's telecommunications regulator, in order to allow for selling separate packages for different types of internet services. Like Oliver, All India Bakchod called on people to email TRAI in order to make their views heard. By the submissions deadline, TRAI had received one million emails.

In their other videos (here and here), the group tackled Facebook's and telecom providers' Free Basics scheme, which provides a free mobile access to restricted online services. While again calling people to leave their comments to support net neutrality, these videos also provide a concise (and funny) overview of the Indian context for the, Free Basics and zero rating discussions.

Outcome: The situation in India is still unsettled. TRAI has banned Free Basics in India for now, but Facebook has tried to mobilise its users to campaign for Free Basics – a move that was strongly criticised by TRAI for providing a biased picture of the issue, and reducing “meaningful consultative exercise designed to produce informed and transparent decisions into a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll”. TRAI is expected to release its stand on net neutrality soon.

Highlight quote: "A few internet activists have been screaming themselves hoarse about this, but let's face it: you pay roughly the same amount of attention to an internet activist as Arvind Kejriwal does to an Open Letter from Prashant Bhushan."


The Oatmeal and Ted Cruz

The third net neutrality explainer is by the cartoonist the Oatmeal
, and takes us back to the US, looking at how the public discourse around net neutrality can become exaggerated and difficult to decipher for the layman.

Context: After president Obama confirmed his support of net neutrality principles in November 2014, the Republican Senator Ted Cruz reacted by issuing a statement through Twitter: "'Net Neutrality' is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government."

The statement was widely criticised and ridiculed but perhaps the best refutation was that by the cartoonist the Oatmeal, who took Cruz to the task and presented a description of what net neutrality really is, all in his distinctive style.

Highlight quote: "Net neutrality is a bipartisan issue. It's something liberals, conservatives, sinners and saints, sasquatches, cyborgs, and all the crab-infused-tex-mex-loving men, women, and children of this great country of ours can get behind."


BONUS: Other explainers

How to Explain Net Neutrality to Your Relatives: A Thanksgiving Guide
Porn Stars Explain Net Neutrality (relatively SFW)

Did we miss a net neutrality explainer that is both funny and acute? Let us know, and we can update the article with more examples.

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article or in the referred content do not necessarily represent that of WAN-IFRA.


Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson


2016-04-13 10:21

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