John Oliver’s rant about network neutrality was impassioned, entertaining, and, in the end, completely wrong about what network neutrality is and how it works.
But that may well end up being irrelevant for a couple of reasons.
First, although Oliver demonstrates a lack of understanding of what network neutrality is, he does know what competition looks like, and his larger point is that there is little meaningful competition in the pay TV business.
The second reason is that some of the army of Internet trolls Oliver called on to accept the FCC’s invitation for public comment on its network neutrality proceedings pretty much get it right.
While many of the commenters are doing what one might expect – expressing disdain against hated cable companies, an astonishing number clearly understand that network neutrality is a side issue; that the big problem is the lack of real competition, and they propose a specific remedy: reclassify broadband as a communications service.
This is the precise detail Oliver characterized as so boring he’d rather read a book by Thomas Friedman.
In other words, these trolls came to the party with an understanding of the root problem in the MVPD market: that the lack of competition we have today is rooted in the qualified failure of the 1996 Communications Act and the FCC’s subsequent nonsensical decision that broadband is an information service and not a communications service.
Oliver is right about this: if a subject is made so boring few people can bear to try to comprehend it, most people are likely to move on.
But if there are that many people who actually do get it? The NCTA has its work cut out for it.