FCC closes talks on net neutrality

Verizon, Google believed near deal

By Todd Shields
Bloomberg News / August 6, 2010

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US regulators ended discussions with companies on Internet regulation after the closed-door talks drew criticism and Google Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. were said to have reached their own deal.

The talks, begun in June, haven’t “generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet,’’ Edward Lazarus, chief of staff of the Federal Communications Commission, said yesterday in a statement.

At issue was the FCC’s power over providers of Internet service and whether phone and cable companies may favor some Web traffic, such as speeding certain videos in return for payment. Among participants were AT&T Inc., Verizon, Google, Skype Technologies SA, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, representing companies led by Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc.

“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,’’ Derek Turner, research director of the Washington-based advocacy group Free Press, said in an e-mailed statement. “The corporate deal-making and the closed-door meetings have generated widespread public outrage.’’

Verizon, the second-biggest US phone company, and Google, owner of the largest Internet search engine, reached their own agreement on network rules as the federal talks were underway, two people briefed on the discussions said.

The compromise would restrict Verizon from selectively slowing Internet content that travels over its wires, but wouldn’t apply such limits to Internet use on mobile phones, they said.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski told reporters in Washington yesterday any resolution “that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable.’’

“We are currently engaged in and committed to the negotiation process led by the FCC,’’ said David Fish, a Verizon spokesman.