Lawmakers want FCC action on net neutrality

Lawmakers are urging Federal Communications Commissioner Julius Genachowski to take action in response to reports that stakeholder discussions over potential net neutrality rules have broken down.

The FCC canceled the talks Thursday after reports of a separate agreement between Google and Verizon over the management of Internet traffic. Members of the House joined Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryGraham criticizes Trump canceling Pelosi trip as 'inappropriate’ Howard Dean to CNN: All Dem candidates qualified to be president except Tulsi Gabbard Not your ‘grandfather’s’ campaign: 2020 Dems look to stand out in crowded race MORE (D-Mass.) in urging the FCC to take action to ensure companies can't pay Internet service providers to provide faster access to their content. Kerry said Thursday that a legislative solution is unlikely in the short term.

“I have real concerns about the reports of a potential deal between Verizon and Google on net neutrality. FCC Chairman Genachowski is making progress on net neutrality, but he must act quickly to protect an open and free Internet," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who represents the district containing Google's Mountain View headquarters.

Verizon and Google have declined to comment on the reported deal. Google said it remains committed to an open Internet, but declined to specify whether its stance on net neutrality has changed in the past nine months.

"We will continue to work with the FCC, Congress and all interested parties to find a solution that ensures that: (1) the Internet remains open and provides consumers with the Web experiences they want, and (2) investment remains robust, so that broadband is the premier platform for innovation for the next decade," said Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president for public affairs.

"I believe these reported side deals by companies risk undermining his efforts," Eshoo added. "This would widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I remain a champion to ensure that the next Google is able to flourish on the internet, and not have its content sit in the slow lane."

“In their effort to gain a competitive advantage in this age of media consolidation, broadband providers are attempting to create a regime that locks information away behind pay walls, dramatically shifting power, and choice, away from consumers to serve their bottom lines," said Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.). "There is no better evidence than these recent reports as to why the Federal Communications Commission must act quickly to preserve Internet freedom.”

Broadband stakeholders involved in the FCC discussions also expressed their disappointment at the collapse of the talks.

“We are disappointed that the net neutrality talks convened by the FCC have broken down. Over recent months, we have negotiated in good faith to bridge differences in our common goal of preserving the open Internet. 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," said Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s executive vice president of external and legislative affairs.

"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. But we will continue to work with legislators, the FCC and other stakeholders who seek such constructive solutions,” said Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the main trade association for the cable industry.

Some advocates expressed hope that the end of the talks would prompt the FCC to move ahead with its plan to reclassify broadband as a telecom service so it can implement net neutrality rules without congressional approval.

"With negotiations failed and the Google thing out there, the time to do something is now," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn. "The power to move forward is in the chairman's hands; he has the votes ... this has fallen into the agency's hands. He should act, not dally, and let the chips fall where they may."