FCC seeking net neutrality compromise

FCC officials met with key stakeholders in the debate over net neutrality to try and hash out an agreement that would allow the agency to move forward with net neutrality guidelines without reclassifying broadband as a Title II common-carrier service.

Edward Lazarus, the FCC's chief of staff, convened the meetings with lobbyists from AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), as well as Google and Skype, to try and reach a legislative compromise that would avoid reclassification but would still grant the FCC the authority to enact net neutrality regulations. The meetings are being described as embryonic, and no consensus was reached.

"We're going to have a whole series of stakeholder meetings," Lazarus told the Wall Street Journal. Entities on both sides of the debate have already begun discussions over what "reasonable network management" policies would be under a net neutrality regime, and whether wireless carriers would be exempted from the rules.

The CTIA has argued vehemently against any net neutrality rules for wireless. A CTIA spokeswoman could not immediately confirm whether the wireless industry trade group was involved in the discussions with the FCC.

The meetings come days after the FCC began accepting public comments on whether it should reclassify broadband, which is seen as a key prerequisite for moving forward on net neutrality. Additionally, the discussions come shortly after AT&T, Verizon and Comcast joined forces with Google, Microsoft, Intel and other tech and telecom companies to form an independent technical coalition that plans to develop guidelines for handling network data traffic.

Public interest groups, which were not invited to the meetings, fumed over the FCC's actions. "It is stunning that the FCC would convene meetings between industry giants to allow them determine how the agency should best protect the public interest," Josh Silver, president of the advocacy group Free Press, said in a statement. "The Obama administration promised a new era of transparency, and to ‘take a backseat to no one' on net neutrality, but these meetings seem to indicate that this FCC has no problem brokering backroom deals without any public input or scrutiny."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Washington Post article
- see this Bloomberg article

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