Lobbyists Spur Network Neutrality Talks with Verizon, Not Google

Lobbyists for the Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle, began network neutrality talks after Google and Verizon failed to secure the confidence of businesses and consumers alike.

Days after four Democratic members of Congress expressed concern about Google and Verizon's broadband proposal, lobbyists took up the cause to create their own proposal for network neutrality.

The Information Technology Industry Council, a lobbying group that includes tech companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco Systems, is holding court to hash out a new plan, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

Google and Verizon touched off a glut of controversy Aug. 9 with their proposal to prohibit wireline operators from discriminating against any applications, content and other traffic on the open Internet.

While this is in keeping with network neutrality principles that call for fair competition for Web content over broadband pipes, the companies angered some factions because they did not extend these principles to wireless networks.

The Congress members, and several Internet companies, were also concerned about the provision for additional online services, which would include a separate traffic highway for priority content.

They feared this highway would slow traffic for public Internet services. Google was accused of selling out network neutrality.

Democratic Reps. Edward Markey, Anna Eshoo, Mike Doyle and Jay Inslee wrote in a letter to Federal Communications Commission Julius Genachowski that Google and Verizon's "industry centered" net neutrality policy underscores the need for the FCC to resolve its meetings regarding the open Internet.

They urged the FCC to facilitate its National Broadband Plan.

While neither Google nor the FCC is involved in the lobbyists' latest discussions, Verizon is participating, according to the Journal.

"Today's meeting is the first in a series of focused discussions, with ITI serving as facilitator, aimed at developing Internet openness principles that can achieve broad cross-sector support," said ITI President Dean Garfield in a statement.

Network neutrality, or the idea that Web traffic be treated indiscriminately, has been a major hot-button issue for years, dividing companies and political party lines with abandon.

Genachowski proposed his National Broadband Plan earlier this year as a way to facilitate broadband deployment in underserved rural areas, with an emphasis on making sure health care clinics and hospitals have speedy Internet access.

His "third way" proposal offers to treat broadband providers with common carrier status, giving his office the power to regulate companies such as Verizon and AT&T to make sure they treat traffic with fairness.

The FCC broke off broadband policy talks with Internet companies and carriers last week after the Google and Verizon controversy ensured.