The Federal Communications Commission suspended its weeks-long series of talks with Internet providers on Net neutrality, dealing a blow to efforts to produce a deal that the agency could take to Congress.
The decision to cut off negotiations marks a major political setback for Chairman Julius Genachowski, whose office reached out to stakeholders six weeks ago to strike an agreement and avoid a public battle over rules that would treat all users’ Web traffic equally.
But the end to industry discussions — which a source close to the FCC talks blamed entirely on news that Google and Verizon separately sought some form of net neutrality agreement — could now force the FCC to take a more aggressive approach to solidifying its broadband authority.
FCC chief of staff Edward Lazarus stressed in a briefly worded statement that the agency has no plans to back down on Net neutrality, months after a federal court in a case involving Comcast essentially nullified much of the agency’s broadband authority.
At first, the FCC had signaled it hoped to avoid that contentious process by brokering an agreement with key industry players — including Verizon, AT&T, Google, Skype, a cable association and the Open Internet Coalition, a group of Internet companies, such as Amazon, and public interest groups including Free Press.
If successful, the talks could have led to a road map for lawmakers, many of whom were left uneasy by the FCC's push to use its own rule-making process to solidify its broadband authority.
From the beginning, there was much consternation over the private meetings. Many stakeholders, especially the consumer advocate community, felt left out of the discussions. The secretive talks also excluded the other FCC commissioners and left some in the tech community feeling as if major companies were defining the future of the Internet without their input.