Comcast Passes On FCC Net Neutrality Hearing

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The FCC meeting was held at the Stanford University Law School Center for Internet and Society in Palo Alto, Calif. Issues that were up for discussion included the topic of network management and consumer expectations, and consumer access to emerging Internet technologies and applications. Panelists who accepted the FCC invite included frequent Comcast critic Lawrence Lessig, founder of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society.

Comcast's non-attendance comes just days after it said it was launching a "best practices" industry initiative about how to manage peer-to-peer filing sharing and that it will work with Pando Networks, a provider of managed P2P content delivery services. The Philadelphia telecom giant has been inundated with criticism from the FCC and technology advocates over its alleged heavy handed tactics to deal with bandwidth vampires, such as using spoofing technology to interrupt P2P applications and traffic on their network.

A Comcast spokeswoman pointed out that the company "already appeared before the Commission on network management issues and has made extensive filings at the FCC both on our past and current practices as well as our recent announcements. We felt issues specific to us were well covered at the first hearing and the focus of this event should be broader than any individual company's issues."

"At this point, the most productive course is to continue our business-to-business discussions and to pursue the process that was outlined in the announcement with Pando. We will look forward to briefing the Commission and other interested parties as we make reportable progress," said the spokeswoman.

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While Comcast declined the FCC invite, AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable also turned down invitations to appear on the panel. According to the Free Press, one of the FCC petitioners, Verizon has reportedly been caught blocking text messages, and AT&T has been accused of wanting to inspect and filter Web traffic.

This is the second meeting the FCC has held to examine the issue of net neutrality, what has been defined as having ISP treat Internet content equally and not interfere with download speeds, regardless of the size or source of the content.

The first FCC hearing regarding the issue was held this past February at Harvard Law School. Comcast again ran afoul of its critics when it was discovered that the company hired seat warmers to populate the meeting, and according to its detractors, purposely shut out advocates of net neutrality in addition to the general public.

Comcast admitted the practice, saying that it hired the seat warmers to offset supporters of Free Press, one of the advocacy groups that first complained and petitioned the FCC to look into Comcast's P2P practices. The company's motive, according to critics, was to fill seats to prevent critics from attending the meeting.