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FCC plans broadband hearing at Stanford, after all

Last month, it was Harvard. Regulators now plan California trip to hear more views on "reasonable" network management, in light of complaints about Comcast's practices.

This post was updated at 9:08 a.m. PDT to add some remarks about the hearing from FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Those zany regulators at the Federal Communications Commission sure like to keep us guessing.

A few weeks ago, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told reporters that he wasn't planning a follow-up hearing at Stanford University on "network management" issues raised in large part by Comcast's slowing of BitTorrent file-sharing traffic.

Sure, rumors on the blogosphere had suggested otherwise, but Martin brushed them aside, saying they may have started because he was planning to speak to an Internet law confab at its law school. (He did acknowledge that California might be a good place to hold a hearing, if the agency did decide to go that route, though.)

On Wednesday, the agency announced that it had officially changed its mind (PDF), scheduling an April 17 field hearing on the university's Palo Alto, Calif., campus.

Martin told reporters after Wednesday's FCC meeting that he hadn't been planning on having a second hearing until discussing the idea with Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig during his visit to the campus last week.

The commission hasn't yet said who will be speaking at the event or what time it will be starting, but those details should be on the way soon.

At its first field hearing on the topic in Cambridge, Mass., last month, the five commissioners heard from Comcast, BitTorrent, and Verizon representatives, as well as academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Law School, among others.

The FCC indicated that the second hearing will cover similar territory, though it did not go into specifics in its Wednesday statement. The agency is currently weighing how--and whether--to define what constitutes "reasonable" network management by Internet service providers.

Martin also said Wednesday that the hearing would affect the agency's timetable for acting on a pending complaint against Comcast's network management practices, which he said he hoped would occur by the end of the second quarter.

As with the Cambridge hearing, this event is set to be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Seats filled up fast at Harvard--some of them, admittedly, filled by sleepy line standers Comcast had hired--so it might be a good idea to show up early for the Palo Alto event, if you plan on attending.

The FCC is also continuing to accept public comments on broadband network management practices through its Web site.