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No solutions expected from FCC meeting with Web, broadband access cos.

A meeting between senior Federal Communications Commissions officials and companies that provide internet services and access to the Web, continued Tuesday with no apparent solutions, according to a source at the meeting.

AT&T, Verizon Communications, Google, Skype and the chief of staff to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski met again for much of the day to negotiate a compromise on aspects of a net neutrality law that would prevent carriers from blocking traffic on their networks. Legislation on that issue would allow the FCC to carry out its goal for open Internet policies without having to move forward on a controversial proposal to assert its regulatory authority over broadband service providers.

A source at the meeting said that while the parties all appeared to be attending the meeting in good faith, "There is still a long way to go. And having said that, there are many, many more stakeholders that need to be brought into the process. This is not a process that will lead to a final solution by any means."

The meeting is expected to continue until around 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Josh Silver, head of public interest group Free Press, stopped by The Post Tuesday to talk about the closed-door meetings, which he criticized for their privacy. He said his group and other public interest groups weren't invited to the meetings Monday and Tuesday, nor have they been asked to participate in future discussions.

Indeed, he and others argued that any push for a corporation-led initiative to avoid the reclassification of broadband at the FCC would harm consumers who are in need of a strong watchdog as high-speed Internet becomes a bigger part of the economy and household needs.

In a blog post, Eddie Lazarus, the FCC Chairman's chief of staff, said any ideas outside Chairman Julius Genachowski's proposal to reclassify broadband would be posted on the agency's Web site.

"Senior Commission staff are making themselves available to meet with all interested parties on these issues," Lazarus said. "To the extent stakeholders discuss proposals with Commission staff regarding other approaches outside of the open proceedings at the Commission, the agency’s ex parte disclosure requirements are not applicable."

Lazarus' blog post further angered public interest groups. They said the FCC meetings should a;sp be completely disclosed in ex parte notices that detail contents of those meetings.

“We are appalled at the idea put forward by the FCC Chief of Staff that there will be no disclosure (ex parte) requirements for meetings the Commission staff will hold on topics directly related to ongoing FCC proceedings," Public Knowledge said in a statement.
 
“To say, as Mr. Lazarus did, that ‘other approaches outside of the open proceedings’ would not be subject to disclosure requirements is simply not acceptable in any circumstance, must less in an Administration and an FCC which have promised new levels of transparency," Public Knowledge said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  June 22, 2010; 4:16 PM ET
 
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Comments

There is no excuse for these meetings to be secret. According to the FCC's own regulations, all details must be disclosed -- preferably as transcripts or audio files.

Why? Because the Commission's Notice of Inquiry, released just last week, is extremely broad. In fact, it requests any and all "original suggestions" regarding the regulation, or non-regulation, of broadband, including those that do not involve the FCC's "third way" or some variation on it. Thus, anything germane which is said at the meeting also falls within the scope of the NOI and must be fully disclosed in an ex parte letter.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | June 22, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

In typical DC fashion, imbeciles like Julius, who don't have any technical background, want to fix what isn't broke. They really just want to shut down free speech, but they are 15 years too late, morons!

Posted by: stanlippmann | June 22, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect, the Commission staff may want to review the following recent statement by their boss:

"Nothing is more critical to assuring the integrity of our proceedings than the way we document ex parte communications. Over thirty years ago, the D.C. Circuit’s Home Box Office decision struck down Commission cable rules in part because hundreds of undocumented ex parte contacts had occurred. While noting that it was not illegal for the Commission to entertain ex parte contacts, the Court instructed that the records of Commission proceedings must reveal all the information made available ex parte so that it can be understood and debated. Home Box Office v. FCC, 567 F.2d 9, 118 (1977).

"Given the complexity and importance of the issues that come before us, ex parte communications remain an essential part of our deliberative process. It is essential that industry and public stakeholders know the facts and arguments presented to us in order to express informed views."

Statement of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, February 22, 2010, FCC 10-31A2 (available at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-10-31A2.pdf)

Posted by: LBrettGlass | June 23, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: HBSSLaw | June 23, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

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