By Brian Raftery
March 11, 2019

John Oliver has got the FCC’s number.

On Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the host dedicated a segment to excessive “robocalls”—those unsolicited automated messages used by big corporations and scammers alike, that have become a constant nuisance for cell-phone users. They’ve become nearly impossible to curb, in part because mobile providers often make users go through elaborate steps in order to be taken off the call-lists. Oliver noted how one company buried such instructions deep in its user agreement, requiring customers who didn’t want such calls to send a written request to a P.O. address.

“I would rather receive a thousand phone calls a day, every day, for the rest of my life, than go out and buy a stamp,” Oliver joked.

He came up with a (somewhat) more elegant solution: Calling the Federal Communications Commission, which he faults with failing to enforce robocall-abuse, pinning much of the blame on current chairman Ajit Pai. He’s one of five FCC commissioners that Oliver set up to receive recurring robocalls in which he urges them to rethink robocall-related rules.

“Hi, FCC,” Oliver says in the message. “This is John from Customer Service… robocalls are incredibly annoying, and the person who can stop them is you. Talk to you again in ninety minutes.”

The segment ended with Oliver pressing a giant red button and yelling, “Unleash hell!” to the sound of multiple phones ringing at once.

It isn’t the first time Oliver has taken on the FCC. In 2017, the HBO host set up a website, GoFCCYourself.com, that automatically directed users to an FCC comments page, where they could share their frustrations over the commission’s net neutrality rules. Within 24 hours, the FCC’s website had crashed.

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