UPDATE: Comcast paid for people to fill seats at FCC Net Neutrality hearing

Nicholas from Miro says,
This is pretty unbelievable--- there was an FCC hearing about Net Neutrality in Harvard yesterday where we had a booth. Comcast was PAYING PEOPLE TO FILL UP SEATS AND CHEER FOR THEM. Tons of folks, including reporters, got turned away. For people that still have a hard time wrapping their heads around what net neutrality is, this about sums up what's happening.

And it's well documented.

Our very own Dean Jansen was there, check out this nice graphic he made.

Update: Dean Jansen says,
Comcast admits to paying non-comcast employees to hold spaces! Here is our blog post (includes embedded audio player and photos). Portfolio's story/update is here.
Dean's blog post says "They were identifiable by their yellow highlighters." Well, yeah, that and their DEVIL EYES.


  1. Is it sad that I find this so depraved that I almost enjoy reading things like this? Wondering what kind of superb lunacy that these nut-jobs are going to come up with next?

  2. Funny, I don’t find it unbelievable at all. The ISPs find it in their best interest that net neutrality goes away, so of course they’re going to be as sneaky as they can to make that happen.

    Also, I just have to add how annoying I find it that the “Preview” comment feature takes you to a preview page that doesn’t have a post link (in IE7, any way), and then when you go back the text is gone. Grrr.

  3. Comcast thought they could deceive the FCC by stacking the audience at this hearing. This from the same company that tried to get away with deceiving customers about their plan to block file sharing.

  4. I was there as well. The FCC commissioners, thankfully, were not fooled – the seatwarmers were rather transparent, sitting together, clearly not engaged, and all clapping in unison and often after a slight delay. When the bused-in folks all left at the lunch break, the room was filled for the second panel with more ordinary people who actually cared about the issues. Even in the stacked first panel, pro-net-neutrality folks were more present – many of us standing and sitting on the floor – than the industry likely expected. (Some of us know the venue and snuck in.)

    Also – just got this link from Free Press – Apparently Comcast admits to hiring line-holders but not seatwarmers:

  5. You’re kidding! You mean in the USA corporations with dogs in certain fight spend extra money to get ringers in to tilt hearings thier direction?

    Next thing you know, people will come up with electronic voting machines that deliver the results they want.

    Oh, wait …

  6. Oh, yah, before we move on from this one:

    The only really suprising thing is how unsurprising this all is. It’s almost like they don’t care who knows about it anymore.

    I often wonder if anyone involved in these things sometimes looks to another one of thier fellows and says something like “Hey, dude … this thing we’re doing … it’s kind of evil and wrong, isn’t it?” before going along with it anyway.

  7. Thats it, thats the last straw! When I plan on moving this Spring, I’m going to specifically choose a residence in a township that has the choice of an alternative cable company to Comcast. Its become a top priority in my search now.

    As an added note, it seems Comcast is looking to get an early jump-start for the “Worst Company in America” award this year.

  8. I can’t deny that Comcast’s actions are a bit reprehensible though they are not uncommon in the ISP industry. I’ve worked for a few in my day and its an interesting business. The real matter nobody ever seems to bring up that pure net neutrality is not all that great of an idea. While I agree that the Internet needs to remain an open space for the individuals and large corporationa alike to have equal footing for the exchange of ideas and information, we also need to have an internet that is ready to adapt with the latest of technologies such as Voice over IP, Video over IP and Lord only knows what is next down the pike. The ability to prioritize and, yes, even degrade some traffic is essential to the progression of such innovations.

    The key is, everyone needs to have reasonable access to those “fast lanes”. That fair access is likely more to better come from demand of the consumer and consumer masses rather than from government panels. The government has never been all that good at creating regulation that can keep up with the times. We are better off in this day and age with self regulation. This whole Comcast mess is a great example of why that works. Comcast does something bad, they get called on it by John Q Citizen and action is taken both within government and by the people. To me, that sounds like a system that is already working. Rushing into regulation in this case is likely to just lead us to regulation the caliber of what we got with the DMCA.

  9. Ray the problem is not that can’t keep up with the development of technology and thus resonable or fair access must be alowable. The problem is that in this field of broadband internet, there is virtually ZERO competition.

    How can any company be expected to do more than they have to, if they have ZERO incentive, they can’t, they are liable to their stock holders.

    So the solutions are A complete net neutrality or B no longer allow the ownerz of the pipez to be providers of the interwebz.

    If you have multiple providers competing for the lowest price with specific services and needs then users will be able to decide who they want to buy service from, for what goals and for how much.

    At the current rate, there development of internet services will move at a snails pace, hell it hasn’t improved from nearly 6-7 years in the midwest. We should be getting everything from TV to Surgery via the internet, but the system is so locked down, innovation and experimentation virtually impossible or at least prohibitivly expensive.

  10. As others have already commended: yes, Comcast’s actions aren’t surprising at all. As one of the articles linked to points out, this is commonplace a congressional hearings, as well.

    And therein is the problem: at a so-called open hearing, what responsibility does the F.C.C. have in ensuring that the public has access? Shouldn’t members of the F.C.C or their staff shoulder some of the responsibility for letting one group’s interest be over-represented, to the detriment of the general public’s ability to participate?

  11. where i live, there are only two alternatives for hsi–Charter(cable), and ATT(dsl)

    i don’t know how it works where you live, but here, there is absolutely no competition between cable companies

  12. When we collect signatures to get initiatives on the ballot, the first thing that our volunteers say is, “I’m a volunteer, not a paid signature gatherer.” It’s common practice for the moneyed parties to hire paid signature gatherers (usually ex-cons fresh out of prison in Arizona) to stand outside the grocery stores and do the political dirty work. Buying government is SOP in the US. Fortunately, I live in an area with lots of angry, old ladies who’ll stand in the blazing heat all day to keep democracy working. Between pissed-off grandma and the ex-con, we know who’s going down.

  13. Why didn’t any pro-net-neutrality-ers hear about this and turn the tables on Comcast?

    Be a little clandestine and get paid to go to the event they would have been attending anyway…thanks Comcast for your donations to the cause!

  14. I cannot wait until the federal government has full China-style controls over the internet (instead of its partial control arsenal now).

    As for this seating issue, the Comcast employees wishing to attend have jobs (unlike the other likely participants who would show up with colorful banners and disruptive personalities to make up for a listening and comprehension deficiency), and showing up hours before an event just to sit there tends to cut into work. Rather than surrender those seats to anyone else (foe or friend in the net-neutrality debate), they hired folks without jobs to hold the seats between the time of door opening and the start time.

    Not hard to comprehend. When the actual participants later showed up, the seat warmers left, as per the terms of their agreement.

  15. Democracy requires more direct participation than writing witty outraged thoughts on websites. It requires writing and calling one’s elected representatives, tracking their votes on bills, and letting them know that they are being watched by their constituents. They probably believe that, in the absence of feedback from their constituents, that their chosen courses of action are acceptable to “the silent majority”.

    If you’re not happy with the FCC’s methods of guardianship of the public airwaves, ask yourself when it was that you last wrote your congressperson(s) and demanded action. How many of you keep track of legislation? How many of you even know who your congresspeople are?

  16. and do you really believe 10,000 outraged letters to a congressman outweigh $10,000 in unmarked bills?

    government is one of the few real bargains left

  17. When the actual participants later showed up, the seat warmers left, as per the terms of their agreement.

    Not true. I was there. I did not see any of the paid seatwarmers leave before lunchtime. During the entire first panel (11-2) there were over 100 people who had taken the day off work, students, etc. who care about issues of net neutrality and who were barred from entering. I didn’t see people start to leave at all until around noon, and then it was a scattered handful of folks who had to get back to work after lunch, etc., not the seated-together block of Comcast plants.

    It’s one thing to pay someone to stand in a line for you. I think it’s icky, but I’m aware it’s common practice for federal hearings in DC, etc. It’s completely another to pay people to sit in a seat and cheer when they have zero interest in the issue. Some of those folks didn’t even know what wi-fi was, and freely admitted they were just paid to be there.

    Free Press and other organizations put out notices and though what (from the outside) looks to be a lot of hard work and community-building, organized a grassroots base to attend the hearing. Comcast didn’t do that, they took the easy route and hired people to get there house ahead of time.

  18. nice trick to attract,Not hard to comprehend. When the actual participants later showed up, the seat warmers left, as per the terms of their agreement.
    < hrf="http://www.wdcrcls.cm">Lnk Bldng

Comments are closed.