Big guys miss neutrality hearing

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WASHINGTON -- The scheduled stars of the FCC's network neutrality hearing at Stanford University on Thursday were no-shows.

Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable, the big network companies that for the most part maintain the Internet's backbone in the U.S., sat out the hearing.

"I'd love to have some of the major network operators here," FCC commissioner Robert McDowell said. "I'm very disappointed they aren't."

McDowell said Comcast, AT&T and Verizon declined the commission's "invitation" to speak at the hearing. While McDowell was diplomatic, it was obvious that he thought the companies' decision to skip things was pusillanimous.

When contacted, officials with the companies said they had already made filings at the FCC and that representatives of some of the operators had already testified at the commission's first hearing in Boston in February.

"Comcast has already appeared before the commission on network management issues and has made extensive filings at the FCC both on our past and current practices as well as our recent announcements," the company said. "We felt issues specific to us were well covered at the first hearing."

AT&T reps said they thought Thursday's gathering was about Comcast and not them. "This hearing pertained mostly to the Comcast/BitTorrent matter and to that company's practices about which we have no firsthand knowledge," AT&T said.

Verizon noted that executive vp Tom Tauke gave a lengthy statement and answered questions in Boston.

The FCC isn't entirely blameless. Sources said the commission only asked the companies to come to Stanford 48 hours before the hearing, and the executive most knowledgeable about the issue, Comcast chief technology officer Tony Werner, was called away by a death in the family.
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