WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said Monday that its website was hit by deliberate denial of service attacks after the telecommunications regulator was criticized by comedian John Oliver for its plan to reverse "net neutrality" rules.
The attacks came soon after Oliver on Sunday urged viewers to file electronic comments with the FCC opposing the plan unveiled by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to reverse rules implemented under President Barack Obama that boosted government regulatory powers over internet service providers.
Pai's plan faces an initial vote on May 18.
Oliver in his HBO show "Last Week Tonight" owned by Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) urged viewers to use a website purchased by the show that takes visitors directly to an FCC page to file comments.
The proposal has received more than 100,000 comments since Sunday, a sign of intense interest in a proposal that could reshape the future of the internet.
The FCC said it "was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks. These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host."
The FCC added the attacks "made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC."
The net neutrality rules, which the FCC put in place in 2015, prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a "fast lane," to certain internet services over others. Pai wants comment on whether the FCC should retain rules governing provider conduct.
The rules reclassified providers much like utilities. They were favored by websites who said they guarantee equal internet access but opposed by internet providers, who said they could eventually result in rate regulation, inhibit innovation and make it harder to manage traffic. Pai said he believed the rules depressed investment by providers and cost jobs.
Oliver in 2014 helped galvanize support for net neutrality. The FCC then received more than 4 million comments, most in favor of the rules.
On Sunday, Oliver harshly criticized Pai, saying he "plays dumb" about why internet providers do not want net neutrality rules and called him "deeply disingenuous."
An FCC spokesman did not comment on Oliver's remarks.
One internet provider, AT&T Inc (T.N), which opposed the Obama rules, in October agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman