Comcast, AT&T absent at FCC hearing on Net neutrality

Major ISPs decline an invitation by the Federal Communications Commission to attend an en banc hearing here at Stanford University on the subject of broadband network management practices.

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Comcast and the Internet service providers largely at the center of federal hearings on Net neutrality pulled a no-show Thursday.

Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner declined an invitation by the Federal Communications Commission to attend an en banc hearing here at Stanford University on the subject of broadband network management practices, according to the FCC commissioners in attendance.

The hearing, the FCC's second in three months, was organized in the wake of findings that Comcast had disrupted network file-sharing traffic on the peer-to-peer network BitTorrent. But since the FCC's first hearing in February at Harvard University, the two companies have agreed to cooperate on techniques to optimize file swapping on networks like Comcast's.

Despite the industry agreement, federal regulators weren't happy that all but a small network operator from Laramie, Wyo., were in attendance.

"I would love to have some network operators here to ask some difficult questions. But they're not here," Commissioner Robert McDowell said toward the end of the first panel on network management.

The FCC's first hearing on the matter included representatives of Verizon and Comcast, which took heat from the FCC then. Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig said that the auditorium at that hearing was packed with people from Comcast, but that their absence from Thursday's meeting begged the question of trust.

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