Oldspeak:“Shaaadyyy….The mere fact that Google, Verizon, At&t, and ComCast were in behind closed door meetings; sans public comment or input, about the internet makes me queasy. Given Google’s track record on Wi-spying, I can’t say I have a great deal of confidence in the veracity of this denial.”
From Stewart Mitchell and Reuters:
Google has rejected claims it has “sold out” on net neutrality amid an industry bust-up that smacks of French farce.
US regulators, Google and major US internet carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and ComCast had been in behind closed doors negotiations trying to thrash out a deal to secure net neutrality, a concept that looks to treat all internet traffic equally, without bias for certain publishers’ content.
However, officials halted negotiations after stories surfaced of a side deal between Google and Verizon that guaranteed the carrier would not block or slow internet traffic over landlines, but could do so to wireless devices.
The New York Times reported that the two players were considering letting Verizon move some online content more quickly if its creators were willing to “pay for the privilege”.
But Google moved quickly to scotch the rumours amid internet outrage that the long-time champion of neutrality was planning on “selling the soul” of the web.
“The New York Times is wrong,” Google announced on its public policy page on Twitter. “We’ve not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.”
The rebuttal came too late to save the current round of negotiations with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on establishing an industry-wide agreement on traffic prioritising.
“We have called off this round of stakeholder discussions,” said Edward Lazarus, a spokesperson for the FFC. “It has been productive on several fronts, but has not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the internet. All options remain on the table.”
The collapse means FCC chairman Julius Genachowski may have to decide how to regulate internet access without further input from the industry, and his decision will probably be challenged in court.
His current stance suggests he plans to rule against allowing carriers to prioritise traffic if media companies pay extra for the privilege.
“Any outcome, any deal, that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable,” Genachowski said.
His comments and the decision to halt the meetings were welcomed by public interest groups. “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,” said Derek Turner, research director at the public interest group Free Press.
In the UK, telecoms regulator Ofcom recently opened a consultationto see how Britain should deal with the issue of net neutrality.