FCC website hit by DDoS attack following comedian's net neutrality rant

James Pearce
Published on:

Comedian John Oliver encouraged viewers to complain about the FCC's plans to repeal net neutrality, but hours later, the regulator reported several DDoS attacks

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been hit by several Distributed Denial of Service attacks, leading to a shutdown of the comments section on its website.

The US regulator confirmed its comment section had been “bombarded” with a high amount of traffic to its commercial cloud host, leaving some users unable to access the site.

FCC chief information officer David Bray explained: “Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks. 

“These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC. While the comment system remained up and running the entire time, these DDoS events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments. 

“We have worked with our commercial partners to address this situation and will continue to monitor developments going forward.”

The attack came after comedian John Oliver, host of US show Last Week Tonight, took aim at FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s plans to reverse net neutrality laws introduced by Pai’s predecessor, Tom Wheeler.

Pai unveiled sweeping reforms last month that will see the FCC return to “light touch regulation” over the telecoms industry, with the foal of axing net neutrality rules by the end of 2017.

In his segment, Oliver said that net neutrality has traditionally been seen as boring, and this favoured internet service providers, but interest in the topic had grown. The comedian gave explicit instructions to viewers on how they could complain to the FCC about Pai’s plans. Oliver labelled Pai as a “deeply disingenuous man”.

Though it is unclear if the DDoS attack is related to Oliver’s TV segment, it came just hours after the episode aired.

This isn’t the first time the comedian, born in the UK, has had a run in with the FCC over net neutrality, campaigning back in 2014 to protect the idea of a free and open internet.