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In Focus: Comcast Fills FCC Meeting With Hired Seat-Warmers

Comcast hired a bored and sleepy claque to attend the latest Federal Communications Commission hearing on the company's blockage of internet traffic, thus preventing interested parties from sitting in. Michael Weiss has the techie reaction to the cable giant's pushback against its opponents.

by
Michael Weiss

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February 27, 2008 - 9:55 am

Comcast is looking to raise as much sympathy for its beleaguered, horizontally integrated self by ensuring that supporters of Free Press, Public Knowledge and other video-on-demand companies aren’t even allowed to attend the FCC hearing at Harvard Law School on network neutrality.

Much like Microsoft, Comcast doesn’t like the competition being piped through its own circuitry. But it does one better by hiring a claque, much of which couldn’t even stay awake through the proceedings, to cheer on its bullying tactics. Comcast seat-warmers were identifiable by the yellow highlighters they were told to clip onto their clothes.

According to Portfolio:

Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury said that the company paid some people to arrive early and hold places in the queue for local Comcast employees who wanted to attend the hearing.

Some of those placeholders, however, did more than wait in line: They filled many of the seats at the meeting, according to eyewitnesses. As a result, scores of Comcast critics and other members of the public were denied entry because the room filled up well before the beginning of the hearing.

Dwight Silverman at TechBlog writes: “Sorry, but that’s inappropriate anywhere, anytime. Even if Comcast really did pay people only to stand in line, that’s more than a little slimy. Hey, you want to see the show, you should have to stand in line, just like everyone else.”

Save the Internet is pissed: “[T]here’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 executive VP David] Cohen had to stare down an FCC that was at least stink-eyed suspicious if not outright gaping-mouth appalled at what Comcast had done,” reports Web Pro News. “Turning his head only brought angry stares from first-class Ivy League law professors busy sharpening their rhetoric for their turn to speak.”

Michael Weiss is the New York Editor of PJ Media.

Michael Weiss is a senior editor of Tablet Magazine and a culture blogger for The New Criterion. He also writes occasionally for Slate, The Weekly Standard, City Journal, The New York Daily News and Standpoint.
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