Comcast Is Blocktastic
Here’s some news to make you feel icky all over: Comcast paid
disinterested uninterested squatters and employees to fill up the room at the FCC hearing at Harvard Law. With supporters and ambivalent attendees taking up real estate 90 minutes beforehand, protestors were unable to enter the building.
This is going to make you feel ickier: Comcast sort of owned up to it, seeming to think it was fair game to manipulate the audience of a public hearing so long as the opposition was beating the drum, too.
The only difference, says said opposition, is that their ranks were volunteer only.
And even ickier: stacking the audience is apparently a standard inside-the-Beltway maneuver. Changing venues was supposed to control for such things.
Comcast’s official statement was that they paid people off the street to "arrive early and hold places in the queue for local Comcast employees," who were invited to attend. Comcast denies that the intent was to block others from attending.
Critics aren’t exactly buying that, though, especially after talking to a couple of the squatters themselves. SaveTheInternet.com reports that one squatter said he was "just getting paid to hold someone’s seat. Presumably the squatter wasn’t one of the ones dozing in the back as pictured. But he did say he didn’t have a clue what the hearing was about.
A large percentage of the crowd wore yellow hi-lighters, presumably in Comcast solidarity and not to match the bus they must have come in on.
As you might imagine, Net Neutrality activists are not amused. "First, Comcast was caught blocking the Internet," said Timothy Karr, campaign director of SavetheInternet.com
"Now it has been caught blocking the public from the debate. The only people cheering Comcast are those paid to do so. Clearly, Comcast will resort to just about any underhanded tactic to stack the decks in its favor. And yet Comcast still expects us to trust them with the future of the Internet?"
The "cheering" Karr’s referring to is probably what a commentator noted at the SaveTheInternet.com blog, explaining why there was such raucous applause each time Comcast executive VP David Cohen made a somewhat lame point.
Evil genius? Yes. Legal? Probably. Fair game? Not even.