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FCC Chairmain Tom Wheeler at CES 2016
FCC Chairmain Tom Wheeler at CES 2016

LAS VEGAS — Speaking at CES 2016, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler talked about the dramatic impact that TV host John Oliver had on the net neutrality debate, praising the consumer response that it generated, despite the barbs it hurled at Wheeler.

Last summer, John Oliver railed against FCC proposals to allow paid priority for “fast-lane” internet traffic. He equated the FCC Chairman’s relationship with the telecom industry to hiring a “dingo as a babysitter,” given Wheeler’s former role leading telecom and wireless industry associations.

The video went viral, generating 10 million views on YouTube and ultimately 4 million comments submitted to the FCC about their proposal.

In a far-ranging conversation with CTA President Gary Shapiro, Wheeler talked about the impact that Oliver had on the debate.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and CTA President Gary Shapiro at CES 2016
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and CTA President Gary Shapiro at CES 2016

“Here’s what John Oliver did. He taught people what a dingo is. I truly did not know until he did his bit,” said Wheeler. “He got people interested. The number of issues that we deal with that have a real live consumer impact, that I wish we could hear from real live consumers.”

Wheeler emphasized how little consumer feedback the agency gets on its policies. “Think of what we’re doing in terms of lifeline reform. Think of what we’re doing in terms of dealing with set-top boxes. Think about what we’re doing in terms of new competitive alternatives. These tend to be arcane types of issues,” said the FCC Chairman.

“John Oliver took the ultimate arcane issue and made it in to something that got people interested. As a result, we got 4 million responses from consumers and that’s good,” concluded Wheeler.

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