The Federal Communications Commission has ended its closed-door discussions with broadband providers and other Net neutrality stakeholders, due to what the FCC chief of staff described as no "robust framework" for Net neutrality coming from the talks.
The move follows several days of renewed attention for Net neutrality following reports this week that Google and Verizon were close to a deal that would let Verizon offer users privileged Internet access to Google content if they were willing to pay for it. Google and Verizon were two of the companies involved in the FCC's talks.
"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," said FCC Chief of Staff Edward Lazarus in a statement.
A possible Google-Verizon deal saw plenty of media attention Thursday, as well as criticism from various watchdog groups, who in a joint statement described such a deal -- which would create what some observers fear would be a "two-tier Internet" with various levels of service -- as "unseemly and inappropriate."
Google moved quickly, however, to deny that any such deal was on the table, with a spokesperson calling the reports "simply wrong," even though several news sources reported the two vendors having been in discussion for close to a year.
"We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic," Google wrote in an update posted to its public policy Twitter feed (@googlepubpolicy). "We remain committed to an open Internet."
Verizon also denied that a deal was imminent, describing The New York Times article as "fundamentally" misunderstanding Verizon's purpose.
"As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation," wrote David Fish, Verizon's executive director for media relations, in a Thursday blog post. "To suggest that this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect."
The FCC's efforts to regulate Net neutrality have seen setbacks in recent months. In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC has no jurisdiction over Internet service providers.
Talks between the FCC and various stakeholders had been under way since June, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Thursday that a possible Google-Verizon deal would be "unacceptable."
"Any outcome of any deal that doesn't preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable," Genachowski told the Times Thursday.