Comcast Finds Innovative New Ways to Block Competitors (and Critics)

Sam Gustin at Portfolio.com has posted an article about how, at the FCC's open hearing on the future of the Internet, Comcast paid people to arrive early and hold spots for Comcast employees. Unfortunately, a fair number of those employees never actually showed up, leaving some uninterested people sleeping in the first row of the hearing while dozens of interested citizens were stuck outside.

One choice quote: “[Comcast spokesperson Jennifer] Khoury said the company didn't intend to block anyone from attending the hearing. 'Comcast informed our local employees about the hearing and invited them to attend,' she said. 'Some employees did attend, along with many members of the general public.'” One might even say that Comcast didn't block those people from attending the hearing, it just delayed them – until the end of the policy session.

I was sitting two rows directly behind the sleeping sitters, and got to see first-hand both their disinterest and their matching highlighters -- presumably meant to signal those they were holding seats for. I also got to see lots of interested parties stuck standing around the outside of the room, and meet some of those who didn't get to get in until the afternoon session because people were using the chairs as beds. But I guess Comcast is right that at least a few employees did make it into the audience to provide a small cheering section in what appeared to be an otherwise unsympathetic crowd, because the only time David Cohen's statements generated a cheer, it seemed to come from a small portion of the room in the back left.

And of course, there was a part of the hearing where no Comcast employees could be found at all: on the technical panel. In a hearing which is based on evaluating Comcast's technology, they didn't provide a single person who could talk about how that technology worked or what prompted them to use it. I wonder why?

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