US FCC calls off net neutrality negotiations

The talks with broadband providers and others haven't gotten far enough, an FCC official says

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has called off negotiations on a network neutrality compromise scheduled for the coming days, saying the talks have not been fruitful enough.

The FCC's decision to cancel this round of negotiations comes after news reports late Wednesday that Google and Verizon Communications were close to their own deal on network management practices.

The negotiations have been "productive on several fronts," Edward Lazarus, the FCC's chief of staff, said in a statement. However, the discussions have "not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet -- one that drives innovation, investment, free speech, and consumer choice," he added. "All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue."

An FCC spokeswoman didn't say whether the FCC's decision to call off the talks and the news reports on Verizon and Google's negotiations were related.

The FCC has been hosting net neutrality negotiations with broadband providers and other interested groups since June, after providers and dozens of U.S. lawmakers objected to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to create formal rules at the agency. Net neutrality rules would prohibit broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic.

Verizon said Thursday it remained committed to the negotiations hosted by the FCC, despite the news reports that it was close to a private deal with Google. Verizon and Google both denied a New York Times report saying the two companies were negotiating a deal that would allow Google to pay for faster access over Verizon's network.

That article is "mistaken," Verizon said in a statement. "It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. Our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect."

Several digital rights and consumer groups objected to a private deal between Verizon and Google.

"The notion that a critical question of public policy could be privately negotiated between two industry giants turns the notion of Internet neutrality on its head," Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a statement. "The goal of Internet neutrality is to prevent gatekeepers and ensure a level playing field. Any negotiation that begins and ends with two companies threatens to undercut that goal."

Genachowski proposed that the FCC craft formal net neutrality rules in late 2009. In May, he called on the FCC to reclassify broadband as a regulated, common-carrier service after an appeals court ruled that the agency didn't have the authority to enforce informal net neutrality rules in a case involving Comcast slowing peer-to-peer traffic.

But several U.S. lawmakers have questioned whether the FCC should reclassify broadband, suggesting instead that Congress take up net neutrality.

Gigi Sohn, president of digital rights group Public Knowledge, called on the FCC to move forward with net neutrality rules following the collapse of negotiations.

"The path before the Federal Communications Commission is now perfectly clear," she said in a statement. "It must act to ensure that consumers are protected, that everyone can have access to broadband and that the commission has the authority to ensure and open and non-discriminatory Internet."

Public Knowledge and other digital rights groups had raised concerns about the FCC negotiations, saying the talks left out several groups interested in net neutrality.

The negotiations were "largely restricted to the biggest industry players," she said. "The FCC now can use the comments and public views submitted to it as a basis for its decisions, as the commission should have done all along."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantusG. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Tags net neutralitytelecommunicationverizonCenter for Democracy and TechnologycomcastU.S. Federal Communications CommissioninternetgovernmentbroadbandInternet service providersGoogle

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?