FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

Summary: No one ever wants to be too close to an issue too hot to handle. So it should come as no surprise that rumors of a deal between Verizon and Google and the subsequent fallout has now prompted the FCC to immediately halt private meetings.

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No one ever wants to be too close to an issue too hot to handle - and that's especially true in Washington.

So it should come as no surprise that rumors of a deal between Verizon and Google and the subsequent fallout has now prompted the FCC to immediately halt private meetings with the tech and telecom giants, which had been working with the FCC to establish broadband policy. In a statement, via the Washington Post's PostTech blog, Eddie Lazarus, the chief of staff to the chairman of the FCC, said:

We have called off this round of stakeholder discussions. It has been productive on several fronts, but has not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet – one that drives innovation, investment, free speech, and consumer choice. All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue.

The FCC took this action even after Verizon went on-the-record with a blog post of its own to say once and for all, that a New York Times report about the rumored Google-Verizon deal was incorrect.

Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett sums up the FCC-Google-Verizon flap nicely in a missive:

Two nights ago, it was reported on Bloomberg that Verizon and Google had reached a bilateral agreement on net neutrality. With few details reported at the time, the accord was arguably a positive sign for ongoing negotiations between a larger group that included not just Google and Verizon, but also AT&T, the NCTA, the Open Internet Coalition, and Skype.

But then the New York Times reported the details. And as soon as it was reported that Google had agreed to paid-for prioritization, it was over. Perhaps we'll never know whether the Times story was planted as a torpedo for the broader negotiations, whether the Times misconstrued a less ambitious agreement to allow for managed services, or whether Google and Verizon simply badly miscalculated the inevitable reaction (or even the more Machiavellian prospect that one of them intentionally agreed to a deal they knew would be untenable as a way to derail the process). In any case, both parties immediately denied the story. But it was too late.

The inevitable firestorm left the FCC no choice but to call an end to the festivities. From the beginning, the negotiations were fraught with procedural, legal, and tactical pitfalls. Ultimately, it was the political pitfalls of negotiations that doomed the process. Yesterday's end to negotiations simply made it official. Note that it was the FCC that "canceled" the negotiations.  It was not the companies themselves.

In any case, it now seems that the FCC is painted into a corner. In a burning building. Made of wood.

Why is it so important for the FCC to take this sort of extreme action? In part, it's because the the issue is too hot and the controversy is far from over. This topic is too hot to be over and the FCC doesn't want anything resembling a scandal landing at its doorstep again anytime in the future.

So rather than hear directly from the companies that will be on the front lines of any new broadband policy, the FCC is going to close that door. That's too bad. Washington - if it wants to do this one right - really needs the input of the tech community. After the Comcast ruling, the FCC lost a lot of its rule-making and enforcement powers, a vulnerability that shows that it needs to work with tech, not against it.

As we now know, lacking a set of rules of guidelines from the federal government, the companies themselves are willing to work out an agreement of their own (even though the official word is that they haven't reached a deal.)

Things change daily with this story, but for now Washington is trying to keep its fair distance from the heat. Burning buildings just aren't much fun.

Topics: Government US, Google, Government, Verizon

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29 comments
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  • Interests

    The interests of the People had better priority number 1.<br><br>Without the People there is no Verizon or Google or Comcast or FCC. Let's not forget the $billions in government subsidies (the People's money) that have gone to telecoms like Verizon. Let's also remember that Google is taking plenty of our money (the People's money) via data mining contracts with the feds. (the People's money being used against the People) And let's all remember that it was the People's money which initially funded the creation of the internet.<br><br>As far as the FCC goes the People's interests should be job #1.
    Tim Patterson
    • Here's an idea for you

      How about letting me decide what my interest is instead of the state deciding for me in the name of "the people."

      Oh, BTW, letting a company keep more of its money is not a subsidy. Because, even though you've been indoctrinated to think otherwise, the source of all money is not the state.
      frgough
      • Naive in the extreme

        @frgough<br><br>"How about letting me decide what my interest is instead of the state deciding for me in the name of "the people." "<br><br>So I guess we can abolish any form of consumer and environmental protection legislation. Good luck on your own.
        Economister
      • RE: FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

        @frgough
        If you think that the alternative to "the state deciding" is you deciding, you are more than a bit naive...and sound like you have been indoctrinated yourself.
        bodhi88
      • More than a bit naive

        @frgough If you think that the alternative to "the state deciding" is you deciding, you are more than a bit naive...and sound like you have been indoctrinated yourself.
        bodhi88
      • RE: FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

        @frgough
        lol The "State" decided to not let Google and Verizon make our decisions. Just because you want Google thinking for you, doesn't mean we all do.
        dbisse
      • RE: FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

        @frgough The source of all money is not the state - that much I agree with you one but at the same time there has been quite a bit of Federal money (i.e. taxpayer's money) given/ loaned to the telecoms and for them to have these secret meetings to work out ways to charge us EVEN MORE money for services with the Gov't backing is ridiculous...
        athynz
    • I agree.

      @Tim Patterson I agree with the above, I would also add that an open, level and fair Internet helps innovation and competition while a closed, tiered, and locked down Internet is just a communication tool for those who can afford it.
      mr1972
    • RE: FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

      As usual, our choice is between singing birds, rainbows, and sunshine every day versus the people who torture small animals and roast children on spits. Also as usual, fans of government telling everyone what to do paint this future as a paradise of singing birds. Feh.
      Robert Hahn
      • RE: FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

        @Robert Hahn You've created a dichotomy that doesn't exist. Fear of Google, Verizon etc. running the show does not equal 'fans of government'. Most consumers have no/little choice of provider so the FCC or other regulatory agencies are the only means available to develop or shape policy away from a Profits First mentality.
        conspicuouschick
    • RE: FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

      @Tim Patterson I could not agree withg you more. Unfortunately Money talks and Net nutraility will walk. Most people will not care except for a small few who will not be taken seriously. It will be truly pathetic, but any deal will be hailed as a good thing even when it isn't in mine or your best interest.

      I know I sound pessimistic, but all I see are companies or governments taking full control of the internet, what goes on it and your communications over it. All to protect freedom and democracy yet taking it away at the same time.
      striker67
    • Verizon and AT&T gets negative subsidies

      @Tim Patterson

      Those billions of "subsidies" you're talking about are actually negative for Verizon and AT&T. Yes, each company gets a little more than a billion in Universal Service Fund (USF), but they each pay much more than a billion into the USF.

      http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/08/techdirt-mistakens-broadband-for-public-property/

      Frankly, you're freaking out over nothing.
      http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/08/the-incoherency-of-net-neutrality-news-coverage/
      georgeou
  • do no evil my a..

    if google agreed to pay for prioritized packets, it goes to show how they feel about search results, and everything else for that matter.. Money talks. Net neutrality?? as long as you can buy it. Search results ranked in order of wealth.
    sparkle farkle
    • If the moon is made of cheese

      @sparkle farkle

      Speculation, pure and pointless speculation.
      Economister
      • RE: FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

        @Economister In that case, there shouldn't be an article. There shouldn't be a blog entry and you certainly shouldn't comment on anything in this blog or in here, because everything is speculation, unless you work for google or Verzion and you were involved in the alleged negotiations.

        Nope, we should never ever discuss anything until we have all the facts and we certainly should never say if X then Y, unless we know X is true.
        notsofast
    • goggle search results are already ranked by who paid the most to be on top

      so that'd be nothing new. as for evil, yeah goog does lots of it everyday.
      Johnny Vegas
    • Search has never been neutral, and neither has the Internet

      @sparkle farkle

      Search has never been neutral
      http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/04/new-google-search-ranking-shuns-net-neutrality/

      And neither has the Internet
      http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/07/call-the-net-neutrality-police-dailykos-loads-faster-than-foxnews/

      Yes, money buys you advantages. It always has, and it always will even if you're living in a socialist or communist state (though under the table).
      georgeou
  • RE: FCC painted into corner after fallout over Google-Verizon talks

    The money always wins ... welcome to life 101
    tosh382
  • Hey Sam, everybody has the opportunity for input

    "That?s too bad. Washington - if it wants to do this one right - really needs the input of the tech community."

    Guess what, there lot's of opportunity for input, everything from letters to open meeting testimony. That's not counting all of the lobbying dollars and effort spent on "educating" the regulators.

    What caused all the trouble were the closed-door backroom deals being cut under the auspices of the FCC.

    And to frgough: When the day comes that there is a free and open market for broadband access, without monopoly franchises, spectrum allocation, and government-guaranteed margins for common carriers, then I will agree with you. Today is not that day.
    terry flores
    • govt action from yesterday is cause of todays problems

      @terry flores

      It was the govt that granted monopoly franchises and auctions spectrum in order to raise money. They game the marketplace, and then complain that the market is flawed and therefore must be regulated.

      You are 100% correct about politicians cutting backroom deals. How do you think Abraham Lincoln made all of his railroad money? Was he just lucky to buy property precisely where the railroads need land?
      otaddy