Why is it a turkey? The FCC, led by Chairman Julius Genachowski, made net neutrality regulations for wireless and wired networks a top regulatory priority. However, the momentum for such rules fell flat this year for a variety of reasons.
In a crucial 3-0 decision issued in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the FCC overstepped its statutory authority when it cited Comcast in 2008 for preventing users from accessing peer-to-peer file sharing services. The court said the FCC could not rely on its "ancillary jurisdiction" to regulate how Comcast managed its network.
In response, Genachowski proposed in May a "third way" forward on net neutrality that essentially would reclassify broadband from a Title I information service to a Title II common-carrier service, while at the same time forbearing from, or agreeing not to pursue, many of the regulations that are imposed on Title II services such as telephone systems. Genachowski argued the move would give the FCC the legal authority to impose net neutrality.
However, as the FCC formally moved forward on whether to reclassify, the agency concurrently set up closed-door meetings with top stakeholders, including Verizon and Google, on the issue--a move public interest groups decried as backroom dealing contrary to the FCC's pledge of transparency. However, those meetings were called off days before Google and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) unveiled a separate public policy framework on net neutrality--a move aimed at influencing policy on the topic. Verizon and Google's proposal would forbid any kind of prioritization--including paid prioritization--of Internet traffic over wired networks. However, it would not apply to wireless networks.
Opponents of net neutrality largely backed the Verizon-Google proposal, while proponents declared it to be an end run around the FCC.
In late August, the FCC opened up to public comment on two of the thorniest issues surrounding the debate: whether and how the rules should be applied to wireless networks, and how to treat "specialized" services. Supporters of net neutrality claimed the FCC was punting on the issue.
Meanwhile, Congress failed to craft a legislative solution to the issue, and with Republicans winning big in the midterm elections, Congress is unlikely to support the regulations next year. What once had a great head of steam is now in limbo.