07:30 AM

In Wake Of GOOG - Verizon Talks FCC Ends Closed Door Meetings - Committed To Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stopped its practice of closed door meetings because of public pressure in the wake of reports of talks between Google and Verizon on a preferential arrangement prioritizing Internet traffic.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said: "Any outcome, any deal that doesn't preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable."

The Free Press lobbying group welcomed the announcement.

Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner said:

"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. 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.

"Now the FCC must match the chairman's words with decisive actions. We need our leaders in Washington to make the tough decisions and take on the difficult task of standing up to entrenched interests and pushing forward strong rules that will protect Internet users everywhere. Today, Julius Genachowski and the FCC took a big step back from the brink and gave everyone who cares about the free an open Internet reason to be hopeful that they still might do the right thing."

Google said that its meetings with Verizon have been misunderstood and that it is committed to an open Internet. Google and Verizon have held a series of talks over the past ten months abut how Verizon handles Internet traffic.


Consumer Watchdog is critical of Google's stand on net neutrality:

Net neutrality -- the idea that all data is treated equally by Internet service providers -- is a key principle of the Internet. Google has long claimed to be an advocate of the principle. Today both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported that Google and Verizon are close to a deal that would let Verizon speed some online content more quickly to Internet users if content providers paid for the privilege.

Wednesday Google Chairman offered a new definition of net neutrality. Speaking at a technology symposium in Lake Tahoe, he said: "I want to make sure that everybody understands what we mean about it. What we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don't discriminate against one person's video in favor of another. It's OK to discriminate across different types..."

"Apparently Google redefines principles to suit the business need of the moment," said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with the nonpartisan, nonprofit group. "Google and Verizon have great incentive to cut deals because of the relationship between their rivals, Apple and AT&T. What Google and Verizon are trying to do is carve up the Internet behind closed doors for their own benefit."
Consumer Watchdog said that net neutrality has always meant that all types of data are treated equally by an Internet service provider. Net neutrality should apply to both the wired and wireless Internet, the nonprofit, nonpartisan group said.

Meanwhile, a national poll released by Consumer Watchdog found that a significant majority of Americans are troubled by recent revelations that Google's Street View cars gathered communications from home WiFi networks, and they want stronger legal protection to preserve their online privacy.
While Google received an overall 74% favorable rating, nearly two-thirds of those polled (65%) say the Wi-Spy scandal is one of the things that "worries them most" or a "great deal" with another 20% saying it "raises some concern" when considering Internet issues.

The poll, conducted for Consumer Watchdog by Grove Insight, Ltd., found a solid majority (55%) is also bothered ("one of the most" or "great deal") by Google's cooperation with the National Security Agency without saying what information is being shared. Even more voters call for Congressional hearings on "Google's gathering data from home WiFi networks and its sharing of information with U.S. spy agencies like the National Security Administration, the NSA" (69% favor, 19% oppose).

Inside Google | A Consumer Watchdog Investigation