Chris Nuttall Wide-awake Webheads to take on Comcast

Harvard hearing courtesy Free PressNo one should be nodding off when the Federal Communications Commission holds a hearing at Stanford University next month into “broadband network management practices.”

Comcast can expect to hear some strong criticisms of its “practices” from technologists and Web activists in the heart of Silicon Valley with the FCC just announcing that a second “field hearing” is needed on the subject.

At the first, at Harvard University on the East coast last month, the cable operator and internet service provider paid people on the street to take up seats, meaning many members of the public who might have wanted to have a say on its practices were kept out of the packed hall.

Comcast said the seat-fillers were holding places for their own staff arriving later, but a Harvard administrator said they remained in their places. Some even fell asleep (pictured) during the hearing.

Comcast is the subject of complaints from online video companies such as Vuze and activists Public Knowledge and Free Press of the coalition. They claim it is blocking peer-to-peer traffic and limiting the delivery of rival video-on-demand services on its network.

Comcast says it is managing its network and P2P traffic may be less timely.

Free Press has welcomed the new hearing: “The threat posed by would-be gatekeepers like Comcast is very real and getting worse,” said Josh Silver, executive director.

“Open internet policies are urgently needed.”