FCC chairman Julius Genachowski bristled at the suggestion the agency was holding secret meetings on network neutrality or that they were being conducted among a hand-picked group.
That came in a press conference following the FCC's August public meeting Thursday.
The commission has been hosting meetings recently among representatives of Google, Skype, Verizon, AT&T, NCTA and the Open Internet Coalition, including two this week and one over last weekend, on possible targeted network neutrality legislation.
The FCC has been posting notices of the meetings on its Web site. But some of those not at the meetings have complained. Asked if holding secret talks and potential side deals was selling out network neutrality backers, the chairman said: "The talks obviously aren't secret," and added that "any deal that does not preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs would be unacceptable."
He said the FCC was exploring "every process we can think of" and consulting through staff a "very broad degree of stakeholders."
"I hope we see good, substantive solutions coming out of this," he said. "I don't know if it will." As to hand-picking the representatives, the chairman said that the FCC was still in the middle of a process that has included public workshops, online input and extensive meetings.
Genachowski said there has been "very extensive consultation and dialog with many other people," and that representatives of the meetings at issue include from the Open Internet Coalition and "people who have historically been active on different sides of the issue."
But several members of that coalition not directly represented in the talks, including Free Press and Media Access Project, are very unhappy with those meetings, and reports that two of the companies represented, Verizon and Google, will build on their joint network neutrality position with a traffic management agreement that does not include wireless broadband.
In a joint letter Wednesday, Public Knowledge, Consumer Federation of America, Free Press, Media Access Project,
Media and Democracy Coalition, New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative and the Center for Media Justice, called on the FCC to "abandon" the talks with Google, Verizon and the others, and instead clarify its broadband authority over network neutrality, universal service, privacy, cybersecurity, and more.