Amid reports that Verizon and Google are near a deal of their own on Net neutrality principles, new reports suggest the Federal Communications Commission has decided to stop brokering a compromise between the parties.
The Associated Press and Washington Post reported Thursday afternoon just after the close of trading on the stock market that the FCC will no longer hold talks aimed at bringing Internet companies together with broadband providers to hash out a deal regarding Net neutrality, the controversy over whether all Internet traffic should be treated equally by carriers. The agency had once hoped to oversee a solution that left everyone happy, but it's apparently giving up.
"We have called off this round of stakeholder discussions. 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," said Eddie Lazard, chief of staff of the FCC, as reported by the Washington Post. Representatives for the FCC did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation of the move.
The move comes as Verizon and Google are reported to have held their own separate discussions regarding the issue, although the nature of any pending agreement between the two companies remains a bit murky.
"We welcome the FCC's decision to end its backroom meetings," said S. Derek Turner, research director for Free Press, in a statement. "Phones have been ringing off the hook and e-mail inboxes overflowing at the FCC, as an outraged public learned about the closed-door deal-making and saw the biggest players trying to carve up the Internet for themselves. We're relieved to see that the FCC now apparently finds dangerous side deals from companies like Verizon and Google to be distasteful and unproductive."
Open Internet Coalition, a group of tech companies that includes Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google, claimed to be less happy to see an end to the talks. "We applaud Chairman Genachowski for reaching out to a variety of stakeholders to try and achieve consensus on targeted legislation on network neutrality. While that now appears unlikely, we will continue to work with the Chairman and other Commissioners to adopt Internet openness rules to protect consumers and innovation," said Markham Erickson, executive director of the coalition, in a statement.