Reactions Mixed Toward FCC's Halting Of Net Neutrality Stakeholder Meetings

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Reaction was swift and mixed to the Federal Communications Commission's announcement that it has called a halt to meetings between stakeholders on possible network neutrality regulation.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said he thought a legislative solution was increasingingly likely and said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski would not be moving forward "along a regulatory path."

FCC chief of staff Edward Lazarus said Thursday that all options are still on the table, an approach Kerry seconded.

"While this is an imperfect solution, it's his only real option to maintain the proper role of government oversight in communications," said Kerry.

Kerry said he still hoped there could be a legislative middle ground between Title II common carrier regulation of the Internet and an unregulated network.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow, one of the Big Six stakeholders that appeared to form the nucleus of the negotiations, said he thought progress had been made. "We believe these conversations produced significant progress toward a consensus on a variety of difficult issues, and are disappointed that all issues could not be resolved," he said in a statement. "But we will continue to work with legislators, the FCC, and other stakeholders who seek such constructive solutions."

AT&T, another of the Big Six, said it was also disappointed that the talks had broken down, but put in a pitch for continuing to look for common ground.

"Over recent months, we have negotiated in good faith to bridge differences in our common goal of preserving the open Internet," said Jim Cicconi , AT&T senior VP and one of those at the table. "To that end, we put a number of significant concessions on the table and, despite today's setback, remain convinced that a consensus solution can be achieved. Moreover, we believe a consensus solution is vital if we are to ensure continued investment and job creation in the Internet space."

Tom Tauke of Verizon, yet another stakeholder at the table, said the talks (which Verizon characterized as "suspended") had been productive.

"The FCC talks made good progress toward consensus on a number of points," he said, "As in any policy debate, there needs to be a balance, which means that all participants should work to find common ground."

Markham Erickson, who had represented the Open Internet Coalition in the talks, said he thought concensus was now "unlikely." He applauded the effort, but encouraged the FCC to "adopt Interness openness rules."

Public Knowledge said that the commssion should now just act on its "open dockets," by which it meant the proposal to expand and codify its Internet access guidelines and inquiry into broadband reclassification. "We were concerned about the negotiations because they were largely restricted to the biggest industry players," said Public Knowledge president Gig Sohn. "The FCC now can use the comments and public views submitted to it as a basis for its decisions, as the Commission should have done all along."

Sohn used the term '"argely restricted" because the Open Internet Coalition members include Public Knowledge and Free Press, but also Google and Skype, which separately had their own representatives at the negotiations.

Free Press celebrated what it said was an end to backroom negotiations. "Phones have been ringing off the hook and e-mail inboxes overflowing at the FCC, as an outraged public learned about the closed-door deal-making and saw the biggest players trying to carve up the Internet for themselves," said research Director Derek Turner. "We're relieved to see that the FCC now apparently finds dangerous side deals from companies like Verizon and Google to be distasteful and unproductive."

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