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FCC draws fire over closed-door meeting with Web, network giants

By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thwarted in his campaign to set government control over consumer access to the Internet, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has been trying to salvage his efforts by negotiating directly with a handful of the biggest Web firms and network service providers.

His goal is for those firms to put aside their differences on how Internet service providers control content on their networks and agree on legislation that Genachowski can present to Congress.

But critics say that by handpicking Google, AT&T, Verizon and Skype for seven closed-door meetings that continue this week at the FCC, Genachowski could be determining the future of how consumers access the Web in a manner more favorable to those businesses.

(In a separate development, Google and Verizon are holding their own private talks on how to bridge differences on managing web traffic. Sources said Wednesday that they have reached an agreement , but no deal has been officially confirmed.)

Massive corporate interests are at stake as the firms and the agency discuss so-called net neutrality provisions, or regulations that would prevent Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to Web sites. The talks could determine, for instance, whether Verizon could provide YouTube online video with better resolution than competitor Netflix, or whether Google and Skype have to pay extra to get their online voice services onto AT&T broadband networks.

"These big companies can make deals for themselves, but they are leaving out the rest of us," said Susan Crawford, a communications law professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Keep reading for full story.

By Cecilia Kang  |  August 5, 2010; 7:43 AM ET
 
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Comments

The FCC has done more than handpick participants for the "negotiations" (leaving many interested parties out). It has also slanted the playing field by giving large Obama campaign contributor Google multiple seats at the negotiating table, biasing the outcome. The public should be very concerned about the outcome of these meetings. The most likely result: The FCC will claim that there's a "consensus" to regulate ISPs in ways that serve Google and shore up its monopolies but harm the public.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | August 5, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

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