If only Dickens were around to write the novel

People sleeping through FCC hearing
Photograph from Portfolio.com, courtesy of: Free Press

From yesterday in Portfolio.com:

How big are the stakes in the so-called network neutrality debate now raging before Congress and federal regulators?

Consider this: One side in the debate actually went to the trouble of hiring people off the street to pack a Federal Communications Commission meeting yesterday—and effectively keep some of its opponents out of the room.

Broadband giant Comcast—the subject of the F.C.C. hearing on network neutrality at the Harvard Law School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts—acknowledged that it did exactly that.

Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury said that the company paid some people to arrive early and hold places in the queue for local Comcast employees who wanted to attend the hearing.

Some of those placeholders, however, did more than wait in line: They filled many of the seats at the meeting, according to eyewitnesses. As a result, scores of Comcast critics and other members of the public were denied entry because the room filled up well before the beginning of the hearing.

Feel free to stomp around and tear your hair a bit. I know I did.

Thanks to Jim Long for the pointer.

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It’s worth 10 minutes of your time

And the day after I get around to posting this, he announces that he’s not running after all. Sigh. The reasons he gives in his new video are clear and convincing, however, and there’s always the possibility that he might run in the future when the notice is not so short.

It’s probably old news for some of you that Lawrence Lessig is considering running for Congress, but I only just had time to watch Lessig’s video, and I definitely want to put in a plug for it, and for him, and for his possible campaign. Lessig has written some excellent books (Arne Kildegaard and I have used both Free culture and The future of ideas in our interdisciplinary network economics course), and is a wonderfully clear thinker with a powerful grasp of what’s necessary to effect change (rather than just make noise). (He’s been a key player in the Creative Commons movement, for example.)

I couldn’t claim to have done the sort of homework needed to make any concrete statements on his policies or particulars, but I can say that he’s a smart, effective guy who’s trying to address real and important problems. And that seems to be a pretty good pedigree for someone running for Congress. I quite like the message of the video as well, and think it would be quite fascinating to see him take on an extremely experienced and successful (his words) politician.

I’m also impressed by his willingness to actually stick his neck out, because I know that I find that hard. I’ve thought, for example, about running for school board in Morris, but I’ve never quite screwed up the courage to try it. It’s obviously very important, and I care a lot about (and frequently disagree with) the Board’s actions. I also know, however, that it would take a lot of time to do well, and probably be pretty frustrating (you’ll never make everyone happy, and there’s likely to be a shortage of easy answers). Thus nothing has actually happened (at least so far).

So well done to Lessig, and best wishes.

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