FCC stops closed-door Internet policy meetings as Google, Verizon strike side deal
Under criticism for its handing of closed-door discussions with certain companies on broadband policy, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday the meetings with Verizon, AT&T, Google and Skype were unsuccessful and that it would stop holding them.
The announcement comes amid an apparent agreement between Verizon and Google on so-called net neutrality ground rules that would allow certain prioritization of Web sites on fixed wire networks and no rules on wireless networks. Sources familiar with the discussions at the FCC said reports Wednesday of a deal between Verizon and Google on net neutrality upset participants in the meeting, who were moving closer to agreement on stronger rules against blocking and slowing traffic on wireless and fixed-wire networks.
“We have called off this round of stakeholder discussions," said Eddie Lazarus, the chief of staff to the chairman of the FCC. "It has been productive on several fronts, but has not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet – one that drives innovation, investment, free speech, and consumer choice. All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue.”
The agency has been holding the meetings to reach a consensus among giant telecom, cable, and Internet content firms on how carriers can manage traffic in a way that doesn't unfairly squash competition by slowing access to some Web sites over others.
AT&T senior executive vice president Jim Cicconi said in a statement:
“We are disappointed that the net neutrality talks convened by the FCC have broken down . . . we put a number of significant concessions on the table and, despite today’s setback, remain convinced that a consensus solution can be achieved.”
Industry watchers said a break down in negotiations means it will be harder convince lawmakers to introduce legislation with significant disagreements still separating network operators and Web content firms.
As reported, the agency has had more than seven sessions of meetings with those companies.
August 5, 2010; 3:35 PM ET
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