The U.S. Federal Communications Commission today called off closed-door talks it was having with lobbyists on network neutrality, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The announcement came a day after news reports broke that an unannounced deal between mobile phone giant Verizon Communications Inc. and Google Inc. on their own network management practices had been made. Under the agreement, Verizon would have been able to prioritize some broadband traffic.
Image: A protester shows support for network neutrality in Canada in 2008.
Net neutrality means that no form of content is favoured over another. The opposite of net neutrality is a tiered system, which imposes costs based on levels of service. This means higher costs are levelled on premium levels of service, such as with cable television.
The FCC's negotiations have "not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet - one that drives innovation, investment, free speech and consumer choice," Edward Lazarus, the FCC's chief of staff, said in a statement, according to PCWorld. "All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue."
It is not clear whether the FCC's decision to end talks with lobbyists had anything to do with news of Google and Verizon's negotiations.
Both companies have denied a report by The New York Times that said the deal would allow Google to pay for faster access on Verizon's network, which mean it would be able to "speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content's creators are willing to pay for the privilege," the report, out yesterday, stated. "The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation's leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users."
If regulators were to enforce net neutrality, Internet providers would not be allowed to restrict access to certain sites or applications, and would also not be allowed to be paid for delivering some content faster than others, CNNMoney explained.
Generally, content providers support net neutrality, while Internet providers are generally against it.
Talks between Verizon and Google may meet "somewhere in the middle," CNNMoney noted. "Verizon would not favor certain types of content over others on its FiOS wireline broadband network. However, those restrictions would not apply to its Verizon Wireless mobile network, which has more significant bandwidth constraints."
Google CEO Eric Schmidt yesterday clarified information on the Verizon-Google talks.
"I want to be clear what we mean by Net neutrality: What we mean is if you have one data type like video, you don't discriminate against one person's video in favor of another," he said, according to CNNMoney. "But it's okay to discriminate across different types, so you could prioritize voice over video, and there is general agreement with Verizon and Google on that issue."
Consumer Watchdog today announced that it believes Google is compromising its Internet principles in order to boost profits.
Meanwhile, Google yesterday also announced the closing of its Wave service.