updated 06:30 pm EDT, Wed August 18, 2010
Tech firms back to table on net neutrality laws
Several top carriers and technology companies have resumed talk between themselves over net neutrality in the wake of broken talks with the FCC, connections revealed this evening. Members of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) are confirmed to be negotiating a compromise deal that they could agree on and possibly take to the FCC as a proposal for how it would regulate Internet traffic. While the participants haven't been officially named, the WSJ understands that both sides of the debate have been present, including anti-regulation carriers AT&T and Verizon, as well as typically pro-neutrality tech firms such as Cisco, Microsoft and Skype.
The Open Internet Coalition, one of the most outspoken proponents of tougher regulation, is also onboard, as is the anti-regulation National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Some ITIC members, such as Apple, aren't known to be part of the talks.
ITIC president Dean Garfield has said that talks in the past few months have made "significant positive steps forward," but neither he nor sources have said what the talks have produced. AT&T and Verizon have often resisted any attempts at net neutrality and have threatened to slow down their network development if forced to treat traffic fairly. Skype has been one of the most vocal in favoring regulation, as the absence of neutrality would let US cellphone carriers ban using its VoIP app over cellular networks to squeeze out competition.
Private industry so far has had little success attempting to push its own rule ideas on the current FCC administration. The joint Google and Verizon deal has been dismissed by the FCC as it would deliberately exempt wireless and would try to steer most disputes towards non-government arbitrators more likely to rule in private businesses' favor. Attempts by Google to paint its compromise as protecting neutrality have fallen on deaf ears as critics, including members of Congress, have accused Google and Verizon of working against the public interest by attempting to segregate the Internet into regulated and unregulated areas.