FCC: No plans for a Comcast-BitTorrent hearing at Stanford

Chairman Kevin Martin dismisses rumors that a formal FCC public hearing at Stanford University is in the works, saying he's merely giving a speech there later this week.

WASHINGTON--You may have heard that the Federal Communications Commission is plotting a Stanford University "do-over" of a recent public Net neutrality hearing, where Comcast paid people to stand in line. Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin Federal Communications Commission

At a meeting with reporters at agency headquarters here, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Tuesday dismissed those reports, saying nothing is planned. He suggested that the rumors may have spread because he's making a solo trip to Palo Alto, Calif., on Friday to speak to a law school conference.

Similarly, a Stanford representative told CNET News.com that she wasn't sure how the rumors started and that she is unaware of any FCC hearing being planned.

The Republican chairman also said the regulators aren't investigating Comcast's hiring of line standers for the Cambridge, Mass., event, which focused in large part on complaints that the cable company throttles BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic in unreasonable ways.

"It's usually more interesting for people to attend on their own without being paid to do so, but we're not investigating anything," Martin said.

The gossip blog Valleywag reported last week that because of that "miniscandal," the FCC was planning a "do-over" hearing at Stanford.

Hired line standing, of course, is a veritable profession in Washington, and Comcast has since acknowledged paying some people to arrive early and hold spaces for local employees who wanted to attend the FCC field hearing.

In this case, however, public-interest groups that filed a complaint against Comcast's admitted delaying of BitTorrent file-sharing uploads cried foul because some of those warm bodies were never, in fact, replaced by employees and were even caught dozing during the multihour event.

Martin did say the agency learned a lot at its Harvard Law School hearing last Monday and hasn't ruled out the possibility of staging another one at some point.

"Certainly, California could end up being a good place to end up doing it," he said in response to a question posed by CNET News.com at the roundtable meeting with reporters.

An FCC representative followed up with this e-mail message: "The chairman never indicated that there would or would not be additional hearings, only indicated that there may be additional hearings. No decision has yet been made."

 

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