Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blocking Debate...My Inner Liberal Steps Out

This article on Comcast's sleezy tactics to prevent the public from attending a meeting of the FCC (at which the future of the internet was being discussed) gets my blood boiling.

There was huge turnout at today’s public hearing in Boston on the future of the Internet. Hundreds of concerned citizens arrived to speak out on the importance of an open Internet. Many took the day off from work — standing outside in the Boston cold — to see the FCC Commissioners. But when they reach the door, they’re told they couldn’t come in.

The size of the crowd is evidence that many Americans don’t want giant corporations like Comcast and Verzion to decide what we can do and where we can go on the Internet.

But will the FCC hear these voices? For many people who showed up on time for the hearing, apparently not.

Comcast — or someone who really, really likes Comcast — evidently bused in its own crowd. These seat-warmers, were paid to fill the room, a move that kept others from taking part.

[Update: Comcast admits to paying people to stack the room in their favor. Read the report.]

They arrived en masse some 90 minutes before the hearing began and occupied almost every available seat, upon which many promptly fell asleep.

One told us that he was “just getting paid to hold someone’s seat.”

He added that he had no idea what the meeting was about.

If he was holding someone else’s seat, he never gave it up.

Many of this early crowd had mysteriously matching yellow highlighters stuck in their lapels.

Comcast payoff
We also photographed them outside the venue being handed papers by an organizer who had been seen earlier talking with several of the Comcast people at the hearing.

Public hearings should not be manipulated like this, and it is clear that Comcast was afraid of actual people being able to attend the event.
The Cambridge hearing is part of the FCC’s ongoing investigation into Comcast’s blocking of Internet traffic. But there’s much more at stake. We are at a critical juncture, where it will be decided whether we have a closed Internet controlled by a small handful of giant corporations, or an open Internet controlled by the people who use it.

Comcast wants the former — to dictate which Web sites and services go fast, slow or don’t load at all. And they’re backed by the other would-be gatekeepers at AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner.

Tell the FCC to stop Comcast from blocking Internet traffic and to permanently protect Net Neutrality:

The official deadline for comments in Feb. 28. has photos and more links. This is an important issue to anyone who believes the internet should be the marketplace of ideas for the 21st Century.