Not available for comment. We’ve grown accustomed to hearing that from politicians, but not from the internet. The internet is the place we go to let politicians know exactly how we feel, right after they say they’re “not available for comment”. It’s why we love the internet so much. Because it’s always available for comment. That wasn’t the case recently for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a government agency that helps regulate radio, television, cable, satellite and wire communication. Ajit Pai of the FCC claimed, that their site crashed due to a “non-traditional DDoS attack” on their comments section. A “traditional DDoS attack” comes simply from too much web traffic. A “non-traditional DDoS attack” comes from a botnet (malicious software loaded with viruses and spam), which can be controlled by a small group of people but have the same effect as hundreds of thousands. Conveniently, this DDoS attack came at the exact same time as famous TV host John Oliver urged his viewers to go onto the FCC’s comment section, and let the FCC know of their dissatisfaction with their recent policies, particularly those involving net neutrality. In other words, even a government agency internet page was so overloaded with questions, that it said, “not available for comment”.
This is impactful for a couple of reasons. First, it shows just how many people are opposed to the FCC’s recent stance on the controversial net neutrality issue. For those new to the discussion, net neutrality is something currently in place that restricts internet companies from being able to slow down certain “premium” websites, and then force their customers to pay a higher fee if they want faster speeds on those premium sites. It’s essentially the cable TV model for your internet. If you want ESPN from your cable provider, you have to pay for the package that contains ESPN, which just happens to be one of their highest packages. Without net neutrality laws, your internet provider would be able to slow down ESPN online, and force you to pay a higher monthly fee to access that site. This is especially concerning for the new generation of “cord cutters”, who have gotten rid of cable due to the high prices and abundance of media and entertainment options via the internet, like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. If net neutrality is abolished, your internet provider will force you to pay a higher monthly fee in order to access those sites.
Coincidentally, the FCC’s comment portal crashed when John Oliver told his viewers to let the FCC know of their displeasure. The fact that a comment section was able to crash upon the massive amount of web traffic shows that it’s not built to withstand large amounts of people giving comments, which leads us to the second impactful takeaway from this issue. The FCC doesn’t actually want to hear people’s comments. If the site wasn’t built to handle John Oliver’s viewers, what’s going to happen when the entire internet rises up against the FCC on Wednesday’s Net Neutrality Day of Action? Two democratic senators, Ron Wyden (Oregon) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii), voiced their displeasure with the situation and urged the FCC to resolve the issues in order that all voices will be able to be heard on Wednesday. If the message got across, the government agents themselves might be unavailable for comment, but the internet better not be.