American Culture

Comcast blocks public from FCC hearing

By Martin Bosworth

If you haven’t already heard about it, Comcast doesn’t just block subscribers from using BitTorrent, it also blocks the public from even complaining about it in public:

Comcast’s spokespersons admitted it paid people to do the same for a hearing on the company’s actions regarding its interference with peer-to-peer file-sharing services such as BitTorrent. The placeholders not only held spots in line, but also crowded into the hearing itself, preventing more than 100 attendees — many of whom had come to speak against Comcast — from getting inside.

This is, quite simply put, one of the lowest things I’ve ever seen. Was Comcast so unsure of its position that it had to stack the deck by paying homeless guys and gofers to fill up seats and cheer on command? has a video up of the whole sordid affair:

It’s a very old-school action from what is absolutely an old-school company. Comcast and those like them are brick-and-mortar monopolists who are trying to take control of the Internet for their own profit. How can you expect them to play fair and freely with content that passes through their “pipes,” when they are willing to cheat at something as elemental as the right of public assembly and discourse?

I’m sure Sam will point out how utterly stupid Comcast was to try a tactic like this, not realizing they’d get caught–as if they couldn’t conceive their opposition would have access to resources that could dig this story up and get it on the front pages, where it belongs. Again, a very old-school attitude from an old-school company.

Companies like Comcast need to learn and be reminded in no uncertain terms that the Internet does not belong to them. It’s a public utility, built with tax dollars for the public good, and to establish free flow of communication among the public. If we don’t hold them accountable, the Internet of the future will operate very much like Comcast did at this FCC hearing–the people who pay will get the best seats in the house.

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