The Federal Communications Commission has cancelled its series of closed door meetings with major Internet companies and stakeholders on the topic of network neutrality, on the heels of criticism the process did not have enough public input…and after reports that Google and Verizon were drawing up their own framework/deal stole the show.
The meetings had been intended to draw up a regulatory framework for protecting consumer access to content, applications, and services on the Internet—both via wire lines and mobile devices—while still providing an environment that will attract the investment necessary to build out broadband infrastructure in the United States. The resulting framework would then be presented to Congress as a blueprint for net neutrality legislation.
There is no indication yet how the FCC will proceed. The agency could simply attempt to directly regulate Internet access providers—an authority that has been signifiantly undercut by Comcast’s court victory regarding P2P blocking. However, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has indicated he believes the agency has sufficient regulatory authority to enforce many net neutrality terms. However, for the FCC to have full authority to regulate broadband in the United States, Congress will likely have to pass legislation granting such authority to the agency.
News of the FCC giving up on net neutrality hearings comes just as news has been breaking that Google and Verizon have been working on their own net neutrality deal. Although both companies deny they have been investigating a business relationship that would give Google priority access to Verizon networks, the companies apparently plan to unveil their own proposal for net neutrality legislation…and these sideline talks have apparently undermined the FCC’s own efforts to find common ground in the industry.